Friday, October 8, 2010
The Ponte Vecchio, probably the most recognized bridge to travelers, spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman times, when the via Cassia crossed the river at this point. The Roman piers were of stone, the superstructure of wood. The bridge first appears in a document of 996. Ponte Vecchio means ‘Old Bridge’ in Italian and its name suits its history. The original wooden bridge was destroyed in a flood in 1333, rebuilt in 1345, and was the only surviving bridge left by the retreating Germans in WWII. Today the stone bridge is a three-arched bridge (originally 5 arches) attributed to Gaddi. In 1565, Giorgio Vasari was commissioned to build the upper part of the bridge, which today is called the Vasariano Corridor. The row of jewelry and leather shops along this corridor is interrupted midway with two panoramic terraces where you are able to see the glorious spans of the Ponte Trinita and Ponte alle Grazie and enjoy the view of Tuscan shores as well as catch a glimpse of San Mianto al monte (next post). Sunset is the most romantic time to tour the bridge, making the scenes that much more enchanting.
The ‘ lucchetti d’amore’ (locks of love) originated when young men had to leave their home towns to do military service. They attached a lock to one of the bridges before their departure as a promise to survive the war and return home. Although many prefer the contemporary version: Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw away the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. Millions of couples have come to the Ponte Vecchio for expressly this reason, to lock in their love and throw away the key for eternity.
“Everything about Florence seems to be colored with a mild violet, like diluted wine.” ~ Henry