My wander this week is to Venice, Italy. I’ve written a little bit about Venice before, but this time I wanted to focus specifically on the famous Bridge of Sighs, so called because it was the bridge over which prisoners were taken before being executed or exiled from Venice. It is said their sorrow was such at their last view of Venice that they sighed, giving the bridge it’s name.
The bridge was designed and built in 1600 by Antonio Contino, and connects the interrogation rooms at the Doge’s Palace with the prison. Made from white limestone, it is ornately carved – even the bars on the small window are made from stone. As for the name… to be honest, and hopefully I’m not bursting too many bubbles here, if I were being taken to be executed I think I’d be doing more than sighing. Also, sandwiched between two buildings as it is, I wonder how much of Venice could be seen. I suppose it was one last look at the blue waters, at sunlight and fresh air, before being taken to their final destination – that, I can understand.
However, further research definitely bursts the bubble – apparently, by the time the bridge was built the days of interrogation and summary execution were over, so it was mostly small-time criminals heading over the bridge to spend short stints in the attached cells. Apparently Lord Byron, among others, is to blame for the more romantic notion, inspired by the beauty of the bridge on his travels to Venice in the early 1800s.
There’s also a Bridge of Sighs at Cambridge University, built in the 1830’s – whether there’s a similar tradition there, I don’t know.
There is a sweeter tradition associated with the bridge – that if you kiss someone while standing under the bridge at sunset (which you can only do in a gondola) you will love them forever. Perhaps the romantic setting has something to do with it. It is possible to tour the Doge’s Palace and cross the bridge and perhaps, even, sigh a little. However, the short time I had in Venice meant I missed out. Sounds like the perfect excuse to go back…
Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you again next time!
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