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Bridge of Sighs - Venice

The Bridge of Sighs in Venice

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Though the Bridge of Sighs (Ponte dei Sospiri in Italian) might evoke today images of love and romance, its history is actually far darker and gloomier than visitors may think!

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💡 The Captain’s tip 💡

🧐 Want to know more about the history of Venice? Captain Ulysses highly recommends this free guided tour of the city. It’s up to you to choose how much you wish to tip the tour guide!

 💤 Looking for a hotel in Venice? Be sure to check out the Captain’s article: Where to stay in Venice? Advice & recommendations

🏛 Planning your trip to Venice? Be sure to check out Captain Ulysses’ complete article on what to see and do in the city: a Guide to Venice

👶 Planning a family adventure to Venice? Discover all of the Captain’s top tips in the article: Exploring Venice with the Kids: Family-Friendly Activities.

Brief history of the Bridge of Sighs

The origins of the Bridge of Sighs

Until the late 16th century, the prisons of Venice (nicknamed “the Piombi”, lead in Italian, because they were located right under the lead roofs) were housed inside the Doge’s Palace. But as the population increased, so did the number of criminals. So much so that the the Palace’s prisons were soon filled to capacity.

To house the growing number of prisoners, a new prison (nicknamed “The Wells”) was built next to the Palace, on the other side of the small channel called the Rio de la Canonica.

To connect this new building to the Palace, architects Antonio Contino di Bernardino and Antonio Da Ponte — who designed the Rialto Bridge — imagined in 1602 a bridge which was to be fully enclosed: the Bridge of Sighs.

What is the reason behind the name of the Bridge of Sighs?

Visitors “sighs” after which the bridge is named – which many wrongly believe to be the sighs breathed by lovers – are actually the sighs of the Venetian convicts looking at the city one last time through the windows of the bridge on their way to the “Wells”, the prisons where they were to serve their sentences.

The small barred windows of the bridge offered prisoners the chance to take one last look at the city of Venice before being plunged into the darkness of their cell.

The Bridge of Sighs, a symbol of love and romance

Why did the Bridge of Sighs become a symbol of love and romance in Venice?

Believe it or not, the culprit of this gross mix-up in none other than English poet Lord Byron, who wrote in the 1810s:

I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs,
A Palace and a prison on each hand:
I saw from out the wave her structures rise
As from the stroke of the enchanter’s wand.

Lord Byron – Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage

Lord Lord Byron greatly contributed to giving the Bridge of Sighs a romantic image, which still prevails two centuries later.

Visiting the Bridge of Sighs

The exterior of the Bridge of Sighs

From the Ponte della Paglia(in English the “Bridge of Straw”) located on the Riva degli Schiavoni (the promenade along Bacino San Marco), the view on the Bridge of Sighs is quite simply stunning.

But be warned: the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most iconic monuments in Venice and it is crowded day and night.

If you want to avoid the crowds, you can also opt for a gondola ride on Rio de la Canonica: you’ll be able to admire the bridge in the comfort of your gondola.

From marble and white Istrian stone, the Bridge of Sight is a prime example of Baroque style. It is 10 metres long (33 ft) and is the only fully enclosed bridge in Venice (… to prevent prisoners from trying to escape by jumping into the channel below!)

Visitors bas-reliefs that adorn the sides of the bridge are personifications of of Justice. The coat-of-arms of Doge Marino Grimani (the 89th doge of Venice) also appears on the monument.

Bridge of Sighs - Venice

Inside the Bridge of Sighs

The visit of the Bridge of Sighs is included in the ticket to the Doge’s Palace. Find out more about the palace in the Captain’s detailed article.

Far plainer (not to say sinister…) than the exterior, the interior of the bridge is divided into two corridors separated by a wall that made is possible for prisoners to cross paths without seeing each other.

Visitors small mesh openings allowed prisoners to see the Venetian lagoon as well as San Giorgio Maggiore Island in the distance.

Inside the Bridge of Sighs


Admission to the Bridge of Sighs

Admission to the Bridge of Sighs is included in the tickets for the Doge’s Palace.

But be warned, it is very touristy and therefore crowded year long.

In order to you want to avoid endless queues, Captain Ulysses recommends opting for:

Opening times

Admission is free for can of course walk by the Bridge of Sighs at any time of the day or night and the Captain highly recommends admiring the view at night.

In the actual visit of the bridge, the Doge’s Palace is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. The monument is closed on December 25th and January 1st.

The Bridge of Sighs at nightfall

Getting to the Bridge of Sighs

The Bridge of Sighs is situated within the Doge’s Palace, a short walk from Saint Mark’s Basilica. The nearest vaporetto stations are San Zaccaria and San Marco.

👉 Book your vaporetto + bus pass

👉 Skip the lines: book your tickets and visits in Venice!

👉 Looking for tips and recommendations? Here are all of Captain Ulysses’ suggestions!

🛏️ Accommodation: Booking

🎟️ Activities: GetYourGuide | Tiqets

⛵ Cruises: GetYourGuide

🎫 Citypass: Venice City Pass | Venice Museum Pass | Chorus Pass (churches)

🚐 Airport transfers: bus | vaporetto | water taxi

🚌 Local transport: Public Transport Pass

✈️ Getting to Venice: Skyscanner | Omio


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