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Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

Overview

The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 stone closed-spandrel
Spandrel
A spandrel, less often spandril or splaundrel, is the space between two arches or between an arch and a rectangular enclosure....

 segmental
Circular segment
In geometry, a circular segment is an area of a circle informally defined as an area which is "cut off" from the rest of the circle by a secant or a chord. The circle segment constitutes the part between the secant and an arc, excluding the circle's center...

 arch bridge
Arch bridge
An arch bridge is a bridge with abutments at each end shaped as a curved arch. Arch bridges work by transferring the weight of the bridge and its loads partially into a horizontal thrust restrained by the abutments at either side...

 over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. The Ponte Vecchio's two neighbouring bridges are the Ponte Santa Trinita
Ponte Santa Trinita
The Ponte Santa Trìnita is a Renaissance bridge in Florence, Italy, spanning the Arno. The Ponte Santa Trìnita is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world, the three flattened ellipses giving the structure its celebrated elegant appearance...

 and the Ponte alle Grazie
Ponte alle Grazie
Ponte alle Grazie is a bridge over the Arno River in Florence, Italy.The original Ponte alle Grazie was constructed in 1227. It was rebuilt in 1345 with nine arches, making it the oldest and longest bridge in Florence. Two of the arches were filled in during 1347 in order to widen piazza dei Mozzi...

.


The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 times, when the via Cassia
Via Cassia
The Via Cassia was an important Roman road striking out of the Via Flaminia near the Milvian Bridge in the immediate vicinity of Rome and, passing not far from Veii traversed Etruria...

 crossed the river at this point.
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Encyclopedia

The Ponte Vecchio is a Medieval
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 stone closed-spandrel
Spandrel
A spandrel, less often spandril or splaundrel, is the space between two arches or between an arch and a rectangular enclosure....

 segmental
Circular segment
In geometry, a circular segment is an area of a circle informally defined as an area which is "cut off" from the rest of the circle by a secant or a chord. The circle segment constitutes the part between the secant and an arc, excluding the circle's center...

 arch bridge
Arch bridge
An arch bridge is a bridge with abutments at each end shaped as a curved arch. Arch bridges work by transferring the weight of the bridge and its loads partially into a horizontal thrust restrained by the abutments at either side...

 over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. The Ponte Vecchio's two neighbouring bridges are the Ponte Santa Trinita
Ponte Santa Trinita
The Ponte Santa Trìnita is a Renaissance bridge in Florence, Italy, spanning the Arno. The Ponte Santa Trìnita is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world, the three flattened ellipses giving the structure its celebrated elegant appearance...

 and the Ponte alle Grazie
Ponte alle Grazie
Ponte alle Grazie is a bridge over the Arno River in Florence, Italy.The original Ponte alle Grazie was constructed in 1227. It was rebuilt in 1345 with nine arches, making it the oldest and longest bridge in Florence. Two of the arches were filled in during 1347 in order to widen piazza dei Mozzi...

.

History and construction



The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 times, when the via Cassia
Via Cassia
The Via Cassia was an important Roman road striking out of the Via Flaminia near the Milvian Bridge in the immediate vicinity of Rome and, passing not far from Veii traversed Etruria...

 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. After being destroyed by a flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

 in 1117 it was reconstructed in stone but swept away again in 1333 save two of its central piers, as noted by Giovanni Villani
Giovanni Villani
Giovanni Villani was an Italian banker, official, diplomat and chronicler from Florence who wrote the Nuova Cronica on the history of Florence. He was a leading statesman of Florence but later gained an unsavory reputation and served time in prison as a result of the bankruptcy of a trading and...

 in his Nuova Cronica
Nuova Cronica
The Nuova Cronica or New Chronicles is a 14th century history of Florence created in a year-by-year linear format and written by the Florentine banker and official Giovanni Villani...

. It was rebuilt in 1345, Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

 recorded the tradition in his day, that attributed its design to Taddeo Gaddi
Taddeo Gaddi
Taddeo Gaddi was a medieval Italian painter and architect.-Biography:He was the son of Gaddo di Zanobi, called Gaddo Gaddi. He was a member of Giotto's workshop from 1313 to 1337, when his master died...

, besides Giotto one of the few artistic names of the trecento
Trecento
The Trecento refers to the 14th century in Italian cultural history.Commonly the Trecento is considered to be the beginning of the Renaissance in art history...

 still recalled two hundred years later. Modern historians present Neri di Fioravanti as a possible candidate. Sheltered in a little loggia at the central opening of the bridge is a weathered dedication stone, which once read Nel trentatrè dopo il mille-trecento, il ponte cadde, per diluvio dell' acque: poi dieci anni, come al Comun piacque, rifatto fu con questo adornamento. The Torre dei Mannelli
Torre dei Mannelli
The Torre dei Mannelli is a small tower on the southeast corner of the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence, Italy. It is the only survivor of the four tower which once defended each corner of the bridge...

 was built at the southeast corner of the bridge to defend it.

The bridge consists of three segmental arches: the main arch has a span of 30 meters (98 ft) the two side arches each span 27 meters (88 ft). The rise of the arches is between 3.5 and 4.4 meters (11½ to 14½ feet), and the span-to-rise ratio 5:1.

It has always hosted shops and merchants who displayed their goods on tables before their premises, after authorization of the Bargello
Bargello
The Bargello, also known as the Bargello Palace or Palazzo del Popolo is a former barracks and prison, now an art museum, in Florence, Italy.-Terminology:...

 (a sort of a lord mayor, a magistrate and a police authority). The back shops (retrobotteghe) that may be seen from upriver, were added in the seventeenth century.

It is said that the economic concept of bankruptcy
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy is a legal status of an insolvent person or an organisation, that is, one that cannot repay the debts owed to creditors. In most jurisdictions bankruptcy is imposed by a court order, often initiated by the debtor....

 originated here: when a merchant could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the "banco") was physically broken ("rotto") by soldiers, and this practice was called "bancorotto" (broken table; possibly it can come from "banca rotta" which means "broken bank"). Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Ponte Vecchio was not destroyed by Germans during their retreat of August 4, 1944, unlike all other bridges in Florence. This was allegedly because of an express order by Hitler. Access to Ponte Vecchio was, however, obstructed by the destruction of the buildings at both ends, which have since been rebuilt using a combination of original and modern design.

Vasari's Corridor



In order to connect the Palazzo Vecchio
Palazzo Vecchio
The Palazzo Vecchio is the town hall of Florence, Italy. This massive, Romanesque, crenellated fortress-palace is among the most impressive town halls of Tuscany...

 (Florence's town hall) with the Palazzo Pitti
Palazzo Pitti
The Palazzo Pitti , in English sometimes called the Pitti Palace, is a vast mainly Renaissance palace in Florence, Italy. It is situated on the south side of the River Arno, a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio...

, in 1565 Cosimo I de' Medici had Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari
Giorgio Vasari was an Italian painter, writer, historian, and architect, who is famous today for his biographies of Italian artists, considered the ideological foundation of art-historical writing.-Biography:...

 build the Vasari Corridor
Vasari Corridor
The Vasari Corridor is an elevated enclosed passageway in Florence, central Italy, which connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. Beginning on the south side of the Palazzo Vecchio, it then joins the Uffizi Gallery and leaves on its south side, crossing the Lungarno dei Archibusieri...

 above it. To enforce the prestige of the bridge, in 1593 the Medici Grand Dukes prohibited butchers from selling there; their place was immediately taken by several gold merchants. The corporative association of butchers had monopolised the shops on the bridge since 1442. A stone with an inscription from Dante
DANTE
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 (Paradiso
Paradiso (Dante)
Paradiso is the third and final part of Dante's Divine Comedy, following the Inferno and the Purgatorio. It is an allegory telling of Dante's journey through Heaven, guided by Beatrice, who symbolises theology...

xvi. 140-7) records the spot at the entrance to the bridge where Buondelmonte de' Buondelmonti was murdered on behalf of the Amidei
Amidei
Amidei was the name of a noble and ancient family from Florence, Italy. The Amidei, according to a tradition came from Rome, but lived in Florence since the foundation of the city.-History:...

, in 1215, initiating the urban fighting of the Guelfs and Ghibellines.

Recent history


Along the Ponte Vecchio, there were many padlock
Padlock
Padlocks are portable locks used to protect against theft, vandalism, sabotage, unauthorized use, and harm. They are designed to protect against some degree of forced and surreptitious entry.- History :...

s locked to various places, especially to the railing around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini
Benvenuto Cellini was an Italian goldsmith, sculptor, painter, soldier and musician, who also wrote a famous autobiography. He was one of the most important artists of Mannerism.-Youth:...

. This is a recent tradition for the Ponte Vecchio, although it has been practiced in Russia and in Asia before. It was perhaps introduced by the padlock shop owner at the end of the bridge. It is popularly connected to idea of love and lovers: by locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river, the lovers became eternally bonded. This is an example of the negative impact of mass tourism: thousands of padlocks needed to be removed frequently, spoiling or damaging the structure of the centuries-old bridge; however, it seems to have decreased after the city administration put a sign on the bridge mentioning a 50€ penalty for those caught locking something to the fence.

The bridge was severely damaged in the 1966 flood of the Arno
1966 Flood of the River Arno in Florence
The 1966 Flood of the Arno River in Florence killed many people and damaged or destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books in Florence. It is considered the worst flood in the city's history since 1557. With the combined effort of Italian citizens and foreign donors and committees, or...

.

The bridge is mentioned in the aria "O mio babbino caro
O mio babbino caro
"O mio babbino caro" is a soprano aria from the opera Gianni Schicchi , by Giacomo Puccini, to a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano. It is sung by Lauretta after tensions between her father Schicchi and the family of Rinuccio, the boy she loves, have reached a breaking point that threatens to...

".

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