Thursday, November 24, 2011

Update: Hello, Bridge of Sighs!


Two weeks ago I posted about the removal of the scaffolding from the Palazzo Ducale and noted that, however, the Bridge of Sighs had been newly covered. Well, the Bridge of Sighs has also been completely uncovered, all the scaffolding around it removed, and the view from the Ponte della Paglia is, once again (after three years), the famous one that even people who have never set foot in Venice (or cruised past it in one of those horrendous cruise ships) know so well.

One can get used to even the worst kinds of things, and so I guess I got used to all that scaffolding and the damned clouds and the wretched billboards and now that they are finally gone the bridge looks almost vulnerable, a little delicate. This is not a bad thing. I'd like to stand before it a long time and try to get a handle on how it looks to me now, in its natural state, so to speak, but I write this post from Chicago, Illinois and the photo above was taken Sunday, November 20, the afternoon before we left Venezia for a two-week visit to the States.  So any further consideration of the bridge will have to wait.

More generally, nearly every time I pass over or by the Ponte della Paglia, packed with tourists, I wonder what it is that everyone is seeing when they behold the famous Bridge of Sighs. I wondered this most of all when the bridge was just a bit of architecture visible amid all those clouds and billboards: looking rather like a fingernail clipping nearly lost upon a gaudy bedspread. But I found myself wondering the same thing when all that extra stuff was taken away as well.

Do people find the bridge beautiful in itself? Or is it the pathetic narrative evoked by Byron's designation of it that makes it such a must-see? Every guidebook tells us we should be haunted by thoughts of those pitiful wretches glimpsing freedom for the last time through its constricted windows on their way to their fate. Are we? Do we even pretend to be? Or by this time is the bridge--for most or many of us--simply a celebrated sight: famous for being famous? Can we even really see it anymore?

I wish I could ask all those people crowded on the Ponte della Paglia, snapping away, but it's not the kind of thing most people would want to be bothered with. And even if I did ask, could they really answer, just like that--put on the spot? I don't think I could. I can't even now.

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