The Bridge of Sighs, a little way upon which one may venture, is more interesting in romantic fancy than in fact, and its chief merit is to span very gracefully the gulf between the Palace and the Prison. With the terrible cells of the Doges’ Palace, to which we are about to descend, it has no connexion. When Byron says, in the famous line beginning the fourth canto of “Childe Harold,”
I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,
he probably meant that he stood in Venice on the Bridge of Straw (Ponte di Paglia) and contemplated the Bridge of Sighs. Because one does not stand on the Bridge of Sighs but in it, for it is merely dark passages lit by gratings. But to stand on the Ponte di Paglia on the Riva and gaze up the sombre Rio del Palazzo with the famous arch poised high over it is one of the first duties of all visitors to Venice and a very memorable experience.
Lastly, the horrible cells (which cost half a lira more), upon which and the damp sinister rooms where the place of execution and oubliette were situated, a saturnine custodian says all that is necessary. Let me, however, quote a warning from the little Venetian guide-book: “Everybody to whom are pointed out the prisons to which Carmagnola, Jacopo Foscari, Antonio Foscarini, etc., were confined, will easily understand that such indications cannot be true at all.”
THE DOGES’ PALACE. II: THE EXTERIOR
The colour of Venice—Sunny Gothic—A magical edifice—The evolution of a palace—A fascinating balcony—The carved capitals—A responsible column—The Porta della Carta—The lions of Venice—The Giants’ Stairs—Antonio Rizzo—A closed arcade—Casanova—The bronze wells—A wonderful courtyard—Anonymous accusations—A Venetian Valhalla.
“That house,” said an American on a Lido steamboat, pointing to the Doges’ Palace, “is a wonder in its way.”
Its way is unique. The soft gentle pink of its south and west facades remains in the memory as long and as firmly as the kaleidoscopic hues of S. Mark’s. This pink is, I believe, the colour of Venice.
Whether or not the Doges’ Palace as seen from S. Giorgio Maggiore, with its seventeen massive arches below, its thirty-four slender arches above, above them its row of quatrefoiled circles, and above them its patterned pink wall with its little balcony and fine windows, the whole surmounted by a gay fringe of dazzling white stone—whether or not this is the most beautiful building in the world is a question for individual decision; but it would, I think, puzzle anyone to name a more beautiful one, or one half so charming. There is nothing within it so entrancing as its exterior—always with the exception of Tintoretto’s, “Bacchus and Ariadne.”