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Bridge of Sighs

Bridge of Sighs photo

ABOVE: The Bridge of Sighs, or Ponte dei Sospiri, with the Ponte della Paglia in the distance.

Remember those science-fiction comic books from the 1950s that showed skyscrapers connected by enclosed bridges far above the ground? Venice's Ponte dei Sospiri, or "Bridge of Sighs," may have been the inspiration for such architectural fantasies.

Antonio Contino's bridge over the Rio di Palazzo was erected in the year 1600 to connect the Doge's prisons, or Prigioni, with the inquisitor's rooms in the main palace.

The name "Bridge of Sighs" was invented in the 19th Century, when Lord Byron helped to popularize the belief that the bridge's name was inspired by the sighs of condemned prisoners as they were led through it to the executioner.

(In reality, 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.)

The Bridge of Sighs is included in the guided Itinerari Segreti ("Secret Itinerary") tour of the Doge's Palace, which you can book by appointment. This 90-minute tour is conducted in Italian; it also includes the prisons, torture chambers, and other rooms that normally aren't open to visitors.

From June through September, tours are scheduled daily except Wednesdays at 10 a.m. and noon. Reserve at least a day in advance, since the number of visitors is limited.

  • Tip: Viator, our booking partner (see our Venice Tours page) offers a "Skip the Line" tour of the Doge's Palace that includes the Secret Itinerary and the Bridge of Sighs. As the name implies, booking ahead means you won't have to stand in line with the crowds.

Also see:
Piazza San Marco
San Marco by the Numbers
St. Mark's Basin by the Numbers
Campanile di San Marco
Accademia Bridge
Rialto Bridge
Ponte di Calatrava
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