Bridge Of Sighs Overview
Bridge of Sighs in Venice is one of the architectural marvels which bring out the feelings of contemplation, confinement and freedom at the same time. The bridge known in Italian as Ponte dei Sospiri was built in 1600 to connect  Doge’s Palace to the New Prison and today, as a worldwide tourist attraction, it connects past to the present.

The Bridge of Sigh was designed by Antonio Contino and it was the last vestibule that offered a view of the outside world to the convicts before their incarceration or execution. Today, hundreds and thousands of tourists are drawn to the historical bridge for not just being part of history, feel emotions of condemned prisoners but also to affirm the everlasting love and romance of the couples.

This might seem awkward to correlate with the history of the bridge, but, it is said that, if lovers kiss under the bridge while boating in Venetian Gondola at sunset while St Mark’s bells ringing, their love and happiness is granted eternally. 

The bridge remains a government property even today, yet thousands of tourists approach by boat and admire the beauty of its architecture. The bridge can be crossed on foot if you visit the Palace which gives an excellent spot to take photographs of the canal, city and the bridge.

How To Reach

By Air :

Marco Polo airport in Venice is the nearest airport to the Bridge of Sighs, situated at a distance of around 14 kilometers. You can take a bus, ferry or taxi to reach the Bridge from there.

By Bus : 
The least expensive but slowest option is the public transport bus, which covers the distance in around 50 minutes.

By Ferry: 
Ferry rides offer breathtaking views of the city, but they can take anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. 

By Taxi : 
The quickest way to reach the bridge is to take a taxi. It would cost you more, but you will reach in around 15 minutes.

Best Time To Visit

The best month to visit Bridge of Sighs is February which sees mild Adriatic winters. The temperatures hover around 8 deg ℃. This is the best time to visit without Venetian summer humidity. Also, it’s better to visit after the first ten days of Feb to ten days before the end of the month.

This time sees lesser number of visitors with cruise ships gone in early Feb and tourists flowing in for carnival in the month end. It’s also advisable not to visit the Bridge during rainy season as the water levels may be unsuitable for boat rides.

To avoid the crowds, it’s also recommended that you plan the visit on weekday as weekends see thousands of tourists heading for Venice. If you plan it carefully, you can visit the Bridge at non-peak hours like the lunch break of morning and avoid the rush. whether you come as a couple, family or a group, it’s best to smartly plan your itinerary as you will be visiting multiple sites in Venice.

Other Essential Information

Crossing the Rio di Palazzo, the Bridge of Sighs is at Piazza San Marco, 1, 30100 Venezia VE, Italy. 

Timings: The timings vary from April - October and November - March. From April 1st till October 31st, one can enter the Bridge from 8:30 am till 7 pm whereas from November 1st to March 31st, the last admission closes at 5:30 pm.

Entry Fee: If you take a gondola ride, the price will depend on the duration and the time of the day. If you plan to go into the bridge, you will have to take a ticket for Doge’s Palace, which costs €25.

Distance from the nearest airport: The nearest airport is the Marco Polo airport in Venice which is around 14 kilometres from the Bridge.

History and Architecture

It was architect Antonio Contino who designed the Bridge of Sighs. Contino’s design, stretching over 11 metres, had an arch and intricately patterned designs both inside and outside. On both sides of the chamber, there are two windows made of stone bars white in colour.

The entire structure is made of Istrian stone, named after Istria, now in Croatia. As Venice didn’t have building stones, they had to be imported. The same stone was used to construct some of the famous architectural landmarks of Venice, including cathedrals.

The construction started in 1600 and the Bridge was commissioned after two years. Constructed in seventeenth-century Italian renaissance tradition, the Bridge’s architecture is notable for its use of Gothic elements, perhaps incorporated to highlight the venues it was connecting.

There are vividly expressive mascarons on the sides of the bridge that greet tourists on gondolas as they pass underneath. The Doge’s Palace was the seat of the ruler of Venice. It had the old prison and cells for interrogation. The Bridge was constructed to connect those facilities in the palace to the New Prison.

It’s believed that Lord Byron gave the haunting English name to the bridge. The name correlates perfectly to the last thoughts of the condemned prisoners, who would take last look of the beautiful city of Venice from bridge and sigh, realising everything they have lost. This poignant pause of hope and reflection has a mystical aura that is unmatched even in a country like Italy filled with architectural wonders.

The Bridge started decaying after centuries of exposure to the vagaries of nature. After it was noticed that some parts of the structure were coming loose and falling into the river - in once case, missing a tourist - there was public pressure to repair the Bridge. The restoration process was soon started and it went on for three years.

View from the Bridge of Sighs

Maximum security prisoners who were condemned to execution or long prison sentences would walk down the Bridge to their final destination, and pause to look through the small windows. What they saw outside - the ethereally beautiful city of Venice - was a grim reminder of all that they had lost.

That’s one of the reasons this bridge stands out in a city that has over 400 bridges and 100 canals. That moment of contemplation, of disillusionment and despair, has given the Bridge a pensive history, unlike other popular tourist destinations in the world.

Today, the view from inside, through the short windows, is almost the same that the prisoners had centuries ago. It’s a brief flight of fancy to a world of beauty and freedom that’s out of reach. Elements of Gothic vestige in the structure amplify the feeling of helplessness while the length of the bridge - considerably short when compared to others - reinforces the certainty of what awaits one.

What many don’t know is that there are two parallel passages in the Bridge, which were constructed to segregate prisoners, in all likelihood. The view of the bridge from outside, on the contrary, is pleasant, romantic and enchanting, especially when seen from a gondola in the evening. 

Romance and the Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is unique in how its real history - as the place where a condemned prisoner would sigh at the final glimpse of the outside world - has been redefined in the popular imagination with a different, romantic story of origin.

In this version, couples who kissed underneath the bridge in a gondola at sunset and when bells of St Mark’s Campanile chimed, were destined to be together forever in love. This reshaping of the myth was a significant factor in millions of couples taking the gondola ride through the canal in the evening.

Popular songs, literature, poetry and even Hollywood films promoted this idea to such an extent that a large proportion of tourists today prefer the boat ride when compared to visiting the bridge. 

Why is it called the Bridge of Sighs?

"I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs, a palace and prison on each hand.” That was Lord Byron explaining the significance of the Bridge and its peculiar name. The Bridge connects offices of the old prison in the palace to the new prison.

Condemned prisoners, especially of heinous crimes, would walk down the bridge into their prison cells, either to await execution or serve long prison sentences that would end in their deaths inside the jail. During the walk, it was said that they would pause and look out of the window at the world outside, a moment of brief reflection, of agony and regret, and then sigh.

There’s even a crucifix at the beginning of the bridge to offer solace to those on their final passage of freedom. 
An imaginary but immensely popular counter version is that if lovers kissed - with a sigh - under the bridge in a gondola at the exact time of sunset and when the bells at ST. Mark's chimed, they would remain in love forever.

This is the amiable and tourist-friendly version that continues to attract thousands of couples on gondola rides on the canal towards the Bridge of Sighs.

Tips for visiting Bridge of Sighs

You don’t have to enter the Bridge to appreciate its beauty. If you are visiting the Doge’s Palace, it makes sense to see the Bridge, but if you are short of time or if your itinerary is packed, you can always see it from either a gondola or the Ponte della Paglia or the Bridge of Paglia. You can also see the Bridge from Ponte della Canonica.

If you are claustrophobic or are travelling with young children, avoid entering the bridge when it’s crowded, like weekends.

The gondola rides are an excellent and time-honoured way to watch the bridge and other landmarks of Venice. It’s worthwhile to note that the rides are pricier in the evenings as compared to the day. If you are looking for cheaper options and are comfortable sharing your ride, you can always go on a gondola tour.
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Bridge Of Sighs FAQs

What does the Bridge of Sighs mean?

It refers to the sighs of the condemned prisoners as they walk from Doge’s Palace and its interrogation rooms to the new prison, either to be executed or to spend the rest of their lives there. Through the small windows, it would be a prisoner’s last look at Venice, filled with introspection and despair.

Can you cross the Bridge of Sighs?

Yes, you can. Whether you are part of a guided tour or you are on your own, with an entry ticket, you can cross it from either side.

What is the Bridge of Sighs famous for?

It is famous for its history, as the enclosed bridge that served as the passage for condemned prisoners to their cells and eventual deaths. In popular folklore, it’s also an icon for love, as it’s believed that if lovers kiss beneath the Bridge at sunset and when the bells at St. Mark’s chime, they will be united in love forever.

How high is the Bridge of Sighs?

The Bridge has a height of 9 metres or 30 feet and a span of 4 metres or 15 feet.

How long did it take to build the Bridge of Sighs?

In the year 1589, da Ponte, uncle of Antonio Contino, took over the task of the new prison next to the Doges’ Palace. After da Ponte’s death in 1595, Antonio Contino completed the job in 1614. Wonderful Bridge of Sighs was built in a timespan of two years.

When was the Bridge of Sighs built?

The Doges’ Palace and New Prison were built from 1595 - 1614. However, Bridge of Sighs was built between 1600 to 1603.

Is the Bridge of Sighs on the Grand Canal?

Yes, Bridge of Sighs is on the Grand Canal.

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