Venice's Bridge of Sighs unveiled following controversial restoration project
13 December 2011
The Daily Telegraph
By Nick Pisa
Venice's Bridge of Sighs has been been unveiled after a three-year, 2.8 million euro (£2.4 million) restoration project which had seen it controversially covered with advertising hoardings while the work took place.
The project was part paid for with a series of adverts which were placed over the scaffolding that covered up the Bridge while the work to restore the limestone and iron features were restored to their former glory for the first time in a century.
Over the decades an ugly black crust, as well as rust, had developed on the 400-year-old Ponte dei Sospiri to give it its Italian name, while in places parts of it had fallen off and dropped into the murky waters of the canal over which it passes.
Details of the restoration work were unveiled at a press conference in Venice on Wednesday hosted by the city's mayor Giorgio Orsoni who expressed his delight at the new look bridge which is one of the reasons why more than 12 million people a year visit the lagoon city.
The Bridge of Sighs was built to connect the old prison to the interrogation rooms in the Doge's Palace and the view from its stone barred windows was the last that prisoners saw as they were led to their cells.
Work on the bridge and the adjoining buildings began after a piece of marble fell from the Doge's Palace and narrowly missed a tourist.
It was given its famous name by British poet Lord Byron in the 19th Century and came from the suggestion that as prisoners were led across it they would sigh as they saw the beautiful city for the last time in a long while - or forever.
Italian law allows advertising on the scaffolding of public buildings undergoing restoration provided it does not "detract from the appearance, decorum or public enjoyment of the building" but many found the posters over the top and not in keeping with the policy.
Lord Foster was among the critics as he put his name to a letter demanding that the billboards be banned and which was also signed by the head curators of the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert.
Mayor Orsoni touched on the controversy as he described the restoration work saying how the Bridge had been returned to its "extraordinary splendour and was now completely safe after an operation that was privately funded and cost the public nothing."
He added: "Every controversy, even the most harshest ones, cannot come between how public administrations tackle these problems. It was a sacrifice for all to see the Doge's Palace and the Bridge covered, even if only partially, by these huge advertsing hoardings.
"These meausures rasied money and were the subject of discussion but we cannot deny their usefulness when looking at the patrimony that has been restored."