With over 400 bridges spanning the canals of Venice, the Bridge of Sighs should be on your list. Although it has a dark history of being used to transport prisoners, today it is one of the most romantic places in Venice. In fact, there is even a famous tradition related to this bridge.
I invite you to get to know this tradition, to get to know the secrets surrounding this bridge, to enjoy the views it offers and to contemplate the architectural and artistic side of this construction.
Visit the Bridge of Sighs entering the Doge's Palace
The Bridge of Sighs is not open-air like the other bridges in Venice, but runs along the back façade of the Doge's Palace. It appears to be a sort of closed tunnel connecting a former Inquisition prison with the palace, so the only way to cross the bridge and move around inside is to book a ticket for the Doge's Palace.
On the walk across the Bridge of Sighs to the prisons, you will walk in the same place and have the same views as the prisoners did centuries ago. At the same time, you will also notice that the walkway of the bridge is divided into two parts and separated by a wall. This was done so that prisoners walking in opposite directions could never see or cross each other.
I recommend visiting the inside of the bridge both day and night, as the view changes completely. Both the temperature inside and the views from the windows of the bridge are very different at both times of the day.
What is special about the Bridge of Sighs?
Called the Ponte dei Sospiri by the locals, this iconic Venice landmark was built in 1600 and connects the Doge's Palace with the historic prison across the canal.
It has to be said that the history of the bridge is somewhat obscure. Initially prisoners on trial in Venice were held in the underground prison chambers inside the Doge's Palace. However, as the number of prisoners grew, the prison was expanded to a building across the canal called the New Prison, and the Bridge of Sighs was built primarily to transport prisoners directly from their trial to their cells.
According to legend, the name of the bridge comes from the sighs of the prisoners who crossed the bridge on their way to their prison cells or execution chamber, catching their last glimpse of the beauty of Venice through the small windows. The bridge became a symbolic monument of Venice when the acclaimed Romantic poet Lord Byron mentioned it in his 1812 book Childe Harold's Pilgrimage.
Enjoy the best views of the Bridge of Sighs from a gondola
The easiest way to see the Bridge of Sighs from the outside is by stepping onto one of the neighbouring bridges. The easiest to reach is the Paglia Bridge next to St Mark's Square and just behind the Doge's Palace. Even though it is one of the busiest bridges in Venice, I would recommend going there as the light comes in from behind and illuminates the Bridge of Sighs perfectly - just what you need for a high quality photograph!
The other option is the Canonica Bridge, a much less popular bridge and one that is not on one of the main streets of the city. From this point you can not only admire the Bridge of Sighs without being jostled impatiently by other tourists, but you can also get a photo of the lagoon behind the bridge - a perfect combination!
If you feel like treating yourself, then the most luxurious way to get a view of the bridge is to book a gondola ride. They are a bit pricey, but you can go directly under the bridge and take mental or real photos whenever you want and from whatever angle you fancy.
Prices for gondola rides
- During the day you pay 80 euros for a half-hour ride. For every additional twenty minutes you pay an extra 40 euros.
- In the evening you will pay 100 euros for a 40-minute ride and 50 euros for every additional 20 minutes.
- The most economical way would certainly be to share the experience with other tourists, or friends.
- Also, for more information, I recommend this post on gondola prices.
Best time to visit the Bridge of Sighs
Venice is always full of tourists and the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most popular sights in Venice. Ideally, you should visit the bridge during the low season (i.e. all months except June, July and August) in Venice, when the city is relatively less crowded with tourists. This way, not only will you be able to visit the interior of the bridge and see it from a distance without being disturbed, but you can also book a guided tour of Venice in greater peace and comfort.
However, if you go to Venice in July, August, or during the Venice Carnival season, you'll have no choice but to visit the bridge during off-peak hours (when there are fewer tourists on the bridge). I recommend heading there early in the morning (between 8:30 and 11), or in the afternoon/evening (between 6 and 8), as the bridge is not often visited at such late hours.
Remember that the Bridge of Sighs is one of the most photographed places in the city. If you are looking to take a photo from the outside, then the time doesn't matter much. Although, from experience, the best time for a souvenir photo is between one hour and 30 minutes before sunset. And if it's from a point of equal or lower altitude, all the better.
Architecture of the Bridge of Sighs
This beautiful bridge hangs over the Rio Palazzo canal, is about 11 metres high and is made of beautiful white Istrian marble. If you look at this building more closely, you will notice twenty mask heads.
The highly ornamental bridge is also made of white limestone, a material typical of most buildings constructed in Venice during the Renaissance. The architect Antonio Contino was the nephew and apprentice of Antonio da Ponte, the same man who designed Venice's most famous flyover, the Rialto Bridge. Curious, isn't it?
The arched bridge is not open -air like most of the city's bridges, and has only two small rectangular lattice windows. Therefore, you can only visit the interior of the bridge if you have access to the Doge's Palace. The bridge has a walkway that is divided into two parts, each with the same surface area as the other - not a centimetre more! You can feel the influence of the perfection that the Renaissance had sown.
Timetables and prices for visiting the Bridge of Sighs
Of course, you can see the Bridge of Sighs at any time of day, as it is in a very visible area, and at night it is well lit. On the other hand, if you want to stay inside and look outside from the bridge's interior walkways, there is nothing to worry about, as it is open **from 8:30 in the morning until 8 pm **in the evening. **However, it is closed to the public on 25 December, 1 January and 6 January.
There is a small distinction to be made in terms of ticket prices. Those who enter for free and those who have to pay an entrance fee of about 10 euros per person. Remember that there is no visit for the bridge only, as to get to the bridge you have to enter through the Doge's Palace.
- Free admission: This is for residents of Venice, ICOM members, disabled persons with an accompanying person, licensed guides and interpreters, and children up to five years of age.
- 10 euro entrance fee: For all other cases.
How to get to the Bridge of Sighs
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the best bridges in Venice. Logically, depending on the area you are in, you will have to choose one way or another to get to the famous Bridge of Sighs. However, knowing how to get around Venice is key to saving time and money.
- From Piazzale Roma, the best way to get there is by vaporetto. In this case, I recommend line 1 stopping at Vallaresso, line 2 stopping at Giardinetti or lines (5.1 or 4.1) stopping at the San Zaccaria stop.
- From Venice Santa Lucia train station, the best way to get there is by vaporetto. I recommend line 1 stopping at San Zaccaria or line 2 stopping at Giardinetti.
- From Venice Lido you can opt for vaporetto line 1 stopping at Vallaresso, or line 5.2 stopping at San Zaccaria.
The romantic tradition of the Bridge of Sighs
Today, the bridge is associated with a different legend, which tells that if a couple kiss on a sunset gondola ride under the bridge, they will be granted eternal love. What's more, the typical image of two lovers riding a gondola at sunset is nothing more or less than a simulation of sailing under this bridge. Sound familiar? If you are a fan of romanticism, it will surely ring a bell.
What's more, if you go out at sunset in Venice and head near the bridge, you will see how most couples follow this tradition, some even joining together when it is already dark in Venice. A tradition that has become part of Italian culture.
In the past, however, not everyone associated the bridge with something romantic, but rather with something funereal and sad, as it served as a corridor for prisoners to enter their cells or to be taken to their execution. Today that idea is no longer contemplated. What's more, since the romantic poet Lord Byron began writing about this iconic bridge, it didn't take long for the legend of the sighs of suffering to be renewed by one in which the sighs were of happiness and love.