The Ponte Vecchio
The Old Bridge of Florence
PDF version 237 pages, 118 photos and maps
The name Ponte Vecchio means ‘Old Bridge’ in Italian, and this world-famous Florentine landmark is certainly old, but it is by no means the first bridge to stand on this site, nor even the first regular means of crossing the river Arno here. The story of a river crossing on this site stretches all the way back into prehistory, so whilst the title of the book might suggest it is about just one bridge, it is actually about a whole series of bridges that were built on, or close to, the site occupied by the Ponte Vecchio today, in the heart of the beautiful city of Florence. These were bridges sometimes destroyed by the hand of man, and sometimes by apocalyptic natural forces. This book is the story of those bridges, and the colourful daily life of the city, as lived around, and even on them - an everyday story of murder, flood and war.
Yet the story of those bridges is the story of Florence, and far more than that: without a way of crossing the Arno here, the city of Florence would never have been founded. And without a Florence, there would have been no ‘Cradle of the Renaissance’, no city where Leonardo and Michelangelo learned their trade, and without them, no Mona Lisa, no Sistine Chapel ceiling, and no marble David. Some of the greatest works of art in Western civilization would never have come to be, were it not for the need to build a river crossing at the head of a marshy valley in Tuscany, some 3,000 years ago.
Chris Dobson's lively and compelling narrative charts those 3,000 years of history, and includes a star cast of famous characters: Julius Caesar; the poet Dante; the ‘Godfathers of the Renaissance’, the Medici; and even Andrea Bocelli, all make appearances, along with less welcome contributions from Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. From Ancient Rome to the 1960's, some of the most dramatic moments in the history of Florence have played out right here, where an old bridge spans the river Arno. The book concludes by bringing the reader right up to the present day, and even takes a look into the future. It is lavishly illustrated throughout.