The Bridge of Sighs is definitely worth getting up early for – the crowds during the afternoons can be unbearable.
It may not have the bold modernity of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or the sheer size of the Golden Gate Bridge, but the understated little Bridge of Sighs is unquestionably one of the most famous in the world. It is built of gleaming white limestone, standing out clearly against the swirling emerald-green water below, and connects the New Prison to the interrogation rooms of the Doge’s Palace.
A Little White Sigh
The bridge’s unusual name comes from an old local legend. Supposedly, convicted men being led from their interrogation cell to prison, or to death, would gaze out the windows of the bridge and would sigh miserably, realising that they were glimpsing the beauty of Venice for the final time. A charming picture indeed, but sadly untrue. For one thing, there is almost nothing to see from that angle – even the most determinedly nostalgic prisoner would struggle to muster a sigh looking out at the bare walls of the Rio di Palazzo. Moreover, the days of the executioner were long over by the time the bridge was built, and the cells were mostly occupied by petty criminals.
Regulating Eternal Love
Fortunately, it is not the view from the bridge, nor the number of summary executions, that draw the crowds to this spot. It has become an internationally recognised symbol of romantic love. It is said that if a couple kiss while drifting on a gondola beneath the bridge at sunset, then they will bask in the glow of eternal love. These rather specific requirements caused amusingly unromantic and heated arguments between beneath the bridge for several years, until, in the true spirit of love, access to the canal below was limited by the authorities.
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