DOGE'S PALACE, Bridge Of Sighs

Audio File length: 2.33
Author: STEFANO ZUFFI E DAVIDE TORTORELLA
English / USA Language: English / USA

It's been said that Venice is unique. But in the end, it's been quite imitated. Think of all the cities that have been renamed the "Venice of the North". There's even an entire state of South America, Venezuela, which means "Little Venice". Of all the monuments, the most "copied" is the Bridge of Sighs: build a covered walkway between two buildings, and there you have it.

The original Bridge of Sighs stands before you; it connects the back of the Doge's Palace with the New Prisons. It was built in Istrian stone at the beginning of the 1600s by a Swiss architect, and is a beautiful covered, closed walkway with a rounded roof and windows on the sides. Closed between the buildings, you can see it from two other bridges: the Ponte della Paglia on the Riva degli Schiavoni, and from the Rectory Bridge on the other side. I suggest the latter, which is much less crowded with tourists: sometimes at the former it's even hard to find enough space to take a picture!

After the fire at the Doge's Palace I mentioned in the previous file, the courtrooms and prison rooms were moved into a separate building, which was designed by the same architect as the Rialto Bridge. If you look at it from the Riva degli Schiavoni, the New Prisons seem to be an elegant patrician palace, but looks can be deceiving...

 

Now pause the audio and go to the New Prisons.

 

Like I said, the interior of the New Prisons is much more sinister that it seems from the exterior, with a torture room, common rooms, and detention rooms. The small cells are impressive, but consider the fact that the prisoners were better off here than when they were held in the Doge's Palace. The "piombi", or leads, were cells located under the palace's metal-plate coating and were boiling hot in the summer and freezing in the winter; the "pozzi", or wells, were cells located below the water level, and were tiny, unbelievably wet, and coated with wood panels to almost seem like coffins. You can see why the prisoners vastly preferred being sent to the "galleys", that is, to row on ships.

 

FUN FACT: the Bridge of Sighs got its name in the 1800s, thinking about the "sighs" of convicts who took their last look at the lagoon before being locked up. But don't kid yourself, it's just a romantic idea: in fact, from the windows closed by thick grates inside the Bridge of Sighs, you can barely see anything at all.

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