Bridges of Florence – First Part

Ponte Vecchio

This bridge is one of the city’s symbols and crosses the river on its narrower part. It was bult for the first time by the ancient Romans but it was damaged several times by the river floods which affected the city through history. After the terrible flood of 1333 it was rebuilt in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi and Neri Fioravanti, with a three-arch structure and two sidelines of artisan shops on top. Ponte Vecchio is the only bridge not to be destroyed by the Germans during their 1944 retreat. Even in the dramatic moments of the retreat of the German army and arrival of the allied anti-nazy forces, the belligerents considered this monument as untouchable.
Ponte Vecchio conserves as a typical medieval bridge all the small jewellery shops that continue to attract so many tourists. But more than any thing, Ponte Vecchio is the place where lovers traditionally exchange promises of love, specially when sunset paints in pink the ancient walls.

Ponte di San Niccolò

The first bridge, a suspended bridge, dedicated to Saint Fernando, was built between 1836 and 1837 by the company Séguin, as former Ponte San Leopoldo (the present Ponte alla Vittoria). It was rebuilt in 1890, allowing trolley bus transportation, and was then closed in 1939. A temporary bridge was built by the Allies in 1944, and it was finally substituted by the final and present bridge, built by R. Moranti, in 1949.

Ponte alle Grazie

Florence’s third bridge in stonework, built in 1237 with nine arches over the largest part of the river. It survived through the great flood of 1333 and in 1347 two of the arches were eliminated to enlarge Piazza dei Mozzi. In 1292 numerous small wood constructions started to be built, most of them being tabernacles, then transformed into chapels, hermitages and shops. Among these constructions were the “murate” cells, where a small community of cloistered nuns had stayed since 1320. They then moved to the homonymous convent of Via Ghibellina in the XV century. Among these chapels was one with a Madonna commissioned by the Alberti family, depicted in the first pillar of the ancient structure, called Santa Maria alle Grazie (attributed to the Master of Santa Cecilia, end of XIII century – beginning of XIV century), from which it derives its present name (it was formerly called 'ponte Rubaconte' upon the name of the rector Rubaconte da Mandello). The ancient buildings were demolished in 1876 to allow the passing of the trolley bus and two protruding cast-iron sidewalks were added. In 1874, in the nearby Lungardo Diaz a small chapel was built to keep the miraculous image, and a third arch was closed in the XX century to build the Lungarno. The bridge was destroyed by the Germans in 1944, and its new reconstruction was completed in 1957.

See also second part of The Bridges of Florence.

Info: APT, Via A. Manzoni, 16, Florence 50121; ph. 055-23320.

How to get to Florence:

from Milan: A1 Bologna - Firenze, exit Firenze Nord
from Genoa: A12 as far as Viareggio, then A11 to Florence, exit Firenze Nord
from Rome: A1 Roma - Milano, exit Firenze Sud.