I stood in Venice on the Bridge of Sighs,
A palace and a prison on each hand.
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV. by Lord Byron
I blush to admit it here but before I read City of Fortune, before I stood on the Bridge of Sighs myself, looking out at the view towards St Mark’s Basin, I used to be under the impression that the Bridge of Sighs in Venice had to do with sighing lovers, like some sort of a Juliette’s balcony. In fact, the Bridge of Sighs connects the Doge’s Palace to the new prisons on the other side of the canal and the sighing was done by the condemned men as they were led across the bridge, this being their last glimpse of the views of Venice.
The Doge’s Palace in Venice was more than the residence of the Doge; it was also the place where the affairs of the Venetian state were conducted, where foreign ambassadors were received, where the various councils and the senate met. So there are council chambers, antechambers, court chambers. And a prison. And torture chambers. If you entered the Doge’s Palace as an accused man, there was a fair chance that you never came out again. At least, not for a while.