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Ponte Vecchio

The Old Bridge and its Goldsmiths

Sunset over the  Ponte Vecchio

Bent bridges seeming to strain like bows And tremble with arrowy undertide … Casa Guidi Windows, Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Often at sunset the Arno becomes a stream of molten gold, confined in its walls of stone and laced into its bed with the curving arches of its spans. That is, during those months when it has a respectable flow of water. But even in the torrid days of August, when the Arno shrivels into muck and spittle, its two famous bridges retain their distinctive beauty. The most famous of these, the Ponte Vecchio, the ‘Old Bridge’, crosses the Arno at its narrowest point; the present bridge, with its three stone arches, was built in 1345, and replaces a wooden construction from the 970s, the successor to a span that may well have dated back to the Romans.

In the Paradiso (Canto 16, 145–7), Dante recalls the murder of Buondelmonte dei Buondelmonti in 1215, the event that touched off the eternal wars of Guelph and Ghibelline: ‘How fitting for this battered stone that guards the bridge, that Florence should make its peace a victim here...’

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Text © Dana Facaros & Michael Pauls

Images by Capt. Tanner, Public Domain, Maëlick, Uffizi