Renaissance Dissident

The Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio Florence

The Ponte Vecchio

The Old Bridge of Florence

A5 Format PDF, ideal for tablets and Kindle
238 pages, 118 illustrations and maps
ISBN 0-9541633-8-9

Price: €24.95

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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.

The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Gilded bronze statue in the Musei Capitolini, Rome.
The Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, who reigned when Florence was destroyed in 542AD.
The Castelvecchio Bridge, Verona shows how the first Ponte Vecchio was originally fortified with battlements.
The Medieval towers of San Gimignano give an impression of how the Ponte Vecchio of Florence was once defended by similar huge towers.
The Divine Comedy Illuminates Florence. Painting by Domenico di Michelino.
The Medieval bridges in Florence, seen from the Pescaia di Santa Rosa.
Photos from the book, from left to right/top to bottom: The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius - a marble statue similar to this was mounted on the first stone bridge to stand here, built by the Romans in 124AD, MatthiasKabel (CC-BY-SA 2.5); Justinian I, Byzantine Emperor when Florence and its bridge were destroyed in 542AD, Petar Milošević (CC-BY-SA 4.0); the fortified Castelvecchio Bridge of Verona, Jakub Halun (CC-BY-SA 3.0); the huge Medieval towers of San Gimignano - towers just like this defended both ends of the Ponte Vecchio in the 12th century, © Chris Dobson; the poet Dante, who lamented the infamous murder of Buondelmonte de’ Buondelmonti, right on the Ponte Vecchio in 1215, Heroldius (CC-BY-SA 3.0); the weir of Santa Rosa, partially destroyed by the calamitous flood of 1333, © Chris Dobson.

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.

This book 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.

Contents:
Introduction
1. Ancient Origins
2. City of Rome
3. Flail of God
4. The Watchtowers
5. Kill Him
6. The Deluge
7. Architectus
8. The Great Corridor
9. A View from a Bridge
Afterword

Equestrian statue of Grand Duke Ferdinando de’ Medici, by Giambologna and Pietro Tacca.
A painting of Saint Anthony Abbot and his faithful pigs. In fact, the Ponte Vecchio was not originally a place just for butchers.
This marble statue of Hercules and Nessus by Giambologna once stood at the south end of the Ponte Vecchio.
The Medieval shops on the Ponte Vecchio originally looked like these shops in Arezzo.
In the 19th century there was a plan to enclose the entire Ponte Vecchio in a cast-iron and glass gallery and change all the shop fronts to the same Neo-Classical design.
A jewelry shop on the Ponte Vecchio.
Photos from the book, from left to right/top to bottom: Grand Duke Ferdinando de’ Medici, who banned all trades from the bridge apart from goldsmiths, and not just the butchers, who were in a minority, © Chris Dobson; Saint Anthony Abbot and his faithful pigs - in the Middle Ages the ‘Swine of Saint Anthony’ roamed free, and would have eaten any edible garbage left on the Ponte Vecchio, Pinacoteca Civica Bruno Molajoli, Fabriano; this marble statue of Hercules and Nessus (1599) by Giambologna once stood at the south end of the Ponte Vecchio, sonofgroucho (CC-BY-SA 2.0); Medieval shops in Arezzo - originally the shops on the Ponte Vecchio looked much more like this, © Chris Dobson; in the 19th century there was a plan to enclose the entire Ponte Vecchio in a cast-iron and glass gallery and change all the shop fronts to the same rigid Neo-Classical design, like this gallery in Milan, Geobia (CC-BY-SA 3.0); a jeweller’s shop on the Ponte Vecchio today, © Chris Dobson.
© Chris Dobson 2022 | All rights reserved