The site of a fortress and palace since the 12th century, the Palazzo Ducale, or Doge's Palace as you see it here (sand-colored building at center right) was begun in about 1340. It was the palace of the doge, the elected ruler of the Venetian Republic, until 1797 when Napoleon occupied Venice. Beginning with the Napoleonic occupation and continuing until Venice became a part of Italy in 1866, the building held various administrative offices. Now a museum, it still is the home of the State Office for the Protection of Historical Monuments. Since the 16th century, the palace has been linked to the adjacent prison (out of frame to the right) by the Bridge of Sighs.