Ponte Vecchio Bridge Basics for Cruisers
"Ponte Vecchio bridge and its breathtaking reflection in the Arno river became a symbol of Florence and a motif you will see on almost any Firenze postcard..."
What Golden Gate bridge is to San Francisco, Sydney Harbour Bridge to Sydney and London Bridge to London, that’s Ponte Vecchio to Florence.
Ponte Vecchio and its breathtaking reflection in the Arno river became a symbol of Florence and a motif you will see on almost any Firenze postcard.
The oldest bridge in Florence was built at a strategic point on the Arno river - the point where the river was at its narrowest.
Old Romans were the first ones who saw the potential of this spot and they were the first ones to build a bridge there.
Since then Ponte Vecchio Bridge underwent many transformations, destructions and restorations but the bridge as we know it today was built in 1345. More than a hundred years before Michelangelo was even born!
It’s amazing to think it has been standing there for almost 700 years!
Although not the oldest of its type in Europe (segmental arch bridge) as it’s often pointed out, Ponte Vecchio bridge was
a remarkable engineering achievement of the Middle Ages
Also, there’s something that makes it totally unique… the little overhanging shops.
If you get off the Ponte Vecchio bridge and look at it from the side first, you will see that the little shops on the bridge are a bit extended over the edge of the bridge… bulging off of it, hanging in the air.
And there is an interesting story that explains this… in the past, the shop owners wanted to enlarge their shops but weren’t allowed to build anything on the pavement side of the bridge. So they extended them on the other side!
|DINING-ROOM TABLE TIDBIT: In the time of the Medicis, the Ponte Vecchio bridge shops belonged to butchers, fishmongers and greengrocers. And it was part of their everyday practice to throw leftover carcases into the Arno river.
It was Ferdinand I the Medici who couldn’t stand the horrible stench of all this meat and blood pouring down the bridge and into the river. And he had to put up with it every day as he was going to work from his palazzo across the bridge. So he ordered that the butcher shops be turned into much more elegant goldsmith and silversmith workshops. Only then was the bridge in accordance with the Medici’s idea of Florence as something beautiful and refined.
Today, you can still shop in the newer versions of those same shops… stepping into one of these is like a step back in history, a little peek into times when artisans were as big a celebrity as painters, sculptors, as the work they created with their two hands was… magic!
|DINING-ROOM TABLE TIDBIT: It is interesting that the concept of bankruptcy originates from here, the Ponte Vecchio itself.
The legend says that when a merchant couldn’t pay his debts, the soldiers would come and the table on which he would sell his merchandise (banco) would be broken (rotto).
This practice was called bancorotto. Without his table to sell on, all a merchant could do is go out of business.
After everything this bridge had survived in its history, it almost got completely destroyed in WWII by the Germans during their withdrawal.
Namely, they bombed every other bridge on the Arno river to slow down the progress of the Allies. And then, legend says, it was Hitler himself who ordered that this historic landmark should not be destroyed. I guess that’s what you call lucidum intervallum!
The row of the gold shops on Ponte Vecchio is interrupted in the center on each side, so you can approach the side of the bridge and from there admire the breathtaking vistas of the Arno river and the buildings on its sides.
Even if you are visiting Florence for just a few hours, like all cruise guests who arrive here from Livorno, Italy the port of Florence, Ponte Vecchio is one of the absolute must see attractions.
Enjoy the view of its little yellow and orange houses, its reflection in the river and the hustle and bustle when walking over it!
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