The “Ponte dei Sospiri” or “Bridge of Sighs” is one of the most known, photographed and admired landmarks of Venice, but it is also most probably the most misinterpreted.
Venice is always seen and described as a romantic city, some say the most romantic city in the world. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this bridge, with its particular and evocative name, is so appreciated by couples who stop to take a picture of themselves kissing, with the bridge as a background.
But… there is a big but: the sighs the bridge refers to are not of love, the sighs we are talking about are of resignation and despair!
The “Ponte dei Sospiri”, an enclosed limestone bridge in baroque style, was commissioned by the Doge Marino Grimani, whose family coat-of-arms can be seen in the center of the facade. Built by Antonio Contin in 1614, it was made for connecting directly the inquisitors’ offices in Palazzo Ducale, to the Prigioni Nuove, the New Prisons, the first building in the world to be designed specifically to serve only for detention.
The name of the bridge refers therefore to the heavy sighs of the convicted people who, crossing the bridge while going to prison, were seeing Venice for the last time and were leaving behind their liberty… that is why Venetians giggle when newlywed couples stay kissing and sighing in front of it: the sighs that bridge refers to, are surely not those of a happy marriage!
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