A travel piece today. The blog title photo and the photo you see here are because i’ve been thinking a lot about Venice lately. Truly one of the most beautiful places i’ve ever been, and I very much want to go back. We’re supposed to in two years time. A friend wants to have his 60th birthday there, so we’re tentatively scheduled to go then. If that doesn’t eventuate I do believe we’ll go anyway. Venice is a place one really needs to return to. Not something I can say for every place i’ve been, and i’ve been in twenty-eight countries to date.
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the many attractions of Venice. In fact, Venice is one big attraction overall. The story surrounding the bridge is that it was built at the beginning of the 17th century. Designed by Antonio Contino with the purpose of connecting the Old Prisons and interrogation rooms in the Doge’s Palace, or Palace of the Dukes, to the New Prisons just across the river.
The Bridge of Sighs is one of the most famous landmarks of the city and its mystique comes from it being the last walk for many condemned prisoners. Inspired by Romantic literature, it was named by Lord Byron, thus named from the notion that one could hear the sighs of these prisoners as they looked one last time upon the outside world before being locked up. Although by the time the bridge was built and summary executions at the hand of the inquisitors had become a thing of the past, many of these prisoners most likely did not see freedom again. There is still some of the graffiti on the concrete cell walls and pictures done by past prisoners, many of who had only committed petty crimes. You can tour the cells and torture chambers for a fee after you tour the Doges Palace.
Among the most famous of the prisoners to have crossed the bridge was Casanova, who was arrested in 1755 for spreading antireligious sentiment throughout the devoutly religious republic. Fifteen months after he crossed the Bridge of Sighs, he would be one of the few prisoners to escape the dark and dingy confines of the Palazzo delle Prigioni, or Palace of Prisons.
The bridge is but one of many must see aspects of Venice. No trip there would be complete without a gondola ride at sunset. Legend has it that those lovers who kiss at sunset while passing under the Bridge of Sighs will have eternal love. Somehow I doubt it works, but it’s a romantic notion nonetheless. I wonder how many have tried it. I also wonder how many know it to not be true. Ah well. We didn’t know about the legend when we took our ride at sunset, so I don’t think we tried it.
The Piazzo San Marco, or St. Mark’s Square, is another main attraction. Lots of outdoor cafes dot the square, and there are pigeons by the millions that you can feed. A bag of seed is cheap and they will literally cover you head to foot trying to get at the food. It’s quite an experience.
At one end of the square is the Basilica de San Marco. This vast cathedral is famous for its Byzantine domes and gilded mosaics. It was built to honor St. Mark after the saint’s bones were kidnapped from Alexandria, Egypt in the 9th Century.
Opposite the Basilica is the Palazzo Ducali, which houses The Doge’s Palace, which was home to Venice’s rulers for more than six centuries. The Bridge of Sighs connects the Palace to the new prison cells across the river.
Then there is the waterfront, always bustling with activity. You can take a water taxi around the bay or out the islands, Murano, where all the famous hand blown glass is sold, or to Murano, a quaint fishing village with excellent restaurants.
Then of course there’s the maze of alley-like streets full of wonderful shops and delicious smelling cafes. Add to all that some of the best gelaterias in Italy, serving dozens of exotic flavors of ice cream and Venice is heaven on earth. You owe it yourself to go if you ever get the chance.