The Bridge of Sighs, also known as the Ponte dei Sospiri, is one of the most famous bridges of Venice. This curved, fully enclosed bridge is made of white limestone and has tiny rectangular windows covered with narrow lattice screens. The bridge was built between 1600 and 1602 to connect the Doge’s Palace with the newly established prison, the Prigioni Nuove, located across the canal Rio di Palazzo.
The bridge had a very specific purpose. It was used to lead prisoners from the interrogation rooms at Doge’s Palace to their cells in the Prigioni. Legend has it that as convicted prisoners walked across the bridge to the prison to serve their sentences or to the execution chamber, they would catch a last glimpse of the outside world through the windows and sigh. Hence, the bridge is called the “Bridge of Sighs”.
In reality though, the days of inquisitions and summary executions were over by the time the bridge was built and the cells under the palace roof were occupied mostly by small-time criminals. In addition, there was not much that could be seen from the inside of the bridge through the tight stone grills covering the windows.
Today, the bridge is associated with a different legend, that if lovers kiss on a gondola at sunset under the Bridge of Sighs, they will be granted eternal love and bliss.