Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Florence's Ponte Vecchio

8 August 2006. After our look round the Duomo our hairy-armpitted guide walked us around to the Ponte Vecchio bridge and left us with an hour or so to wander around.

Florence is a city of statues. They are literally every few yards. They were littering the place so profusely that they set up a few arches in the Piazza della Signoria and bunged a collection of them there. Every one a masterpiece as it were.

Anyway, opposite this scrapyard of famous sculpture is Michaelangelo's David. Not the original, which is in the museum, but a copy. Exact down to the oversized hands - though if you were about to kill the giant Goliath then oversized hands might just have come in ...er... hand-y...

Anyway according to Hairy-Pits, it was Michaelangelo's way of saying "I made this with my hands" and more fool him... Should have used a chisel...

Pausing only to tie the end of her armpit hair to the whip aerial of a Vespa scooter that was stopped at some traffic lights, we went to have a look at the bridge. I'm kidding! I'm kidding! It was a Lambretta...

Ponte Vecchio is one of the great Medieval bridges of the world. This is what London Bridge used to look like at the time of the Great Fire of London. Only with more heads on stakes... The construction of a stone-built bridge was started in 1345. Most of the shops were butchers' shops until 1593 when the city's finest decided they would rather have something more elegant and stylish on their showcase feature and they moved in the goldsmiths, who have remained to this day (although they are very very old and feeble...)

The gold shops line both sides of the bridge, though of necessity, the shops are not very deep, even the ones that overhang the side of the bridge parapet!

You can, by the way, buy much of the same jewellery much cheaper a few streets away from the bridge. But it's not the same. Well it was for Miss Franny as just looking in the shops costs the same either on or off the bridge...

The view both up or down the River Arno from the bridge is very aesthetically pleasing. Another way of saying "nice".

It became for some reason a cool thing to do, for lovers to attach a padlock to the gates of the bridge. It has been there for 700 years so the act symbolised a wish for a long relationship. After the first few thousand padlocks again the city's finest stepped in and it's now an offence with a 50 Euro fine attached...

Why would a bridge have gates? Because they are a route for friends - or foes - across rivers and into cities. Armed forces the world over have a great affection for the heady combination of bridges and dynamite. Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge across the River Arno that the Germans left intact. Presumably under the express orders of Hitler who had either promised Eva Braun they would take a padlock there, or he had plans to number the bricks and transport it back to the Fatherland...

Our meeting place was outside the Basilica of Santa Croce which was started on May 3 1294 with the facade of marble added 1857-63. As if I can be bothered to remember that... Michaelangelo's tomb is inside it. According to our guide who was a bit red in the face with the effort of dragging a Lambretta behind her...

Large versions of the photos: can be found in this set at Flickr.

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