The Oldest Bridge in Florence, for Jake’s Theme

Jake’s theme this week is ‘Bridge’ and as I’ve shown you many bridges for previous challenges, I decided this time to single out only one. The Ponte Vecchio is the most famous bridge in Florence, and also the oldest, being the only surviving bridge from Florence’s medieval days. Other bridges in Florence were destroyed in World War II, but legend has it that Hitler really took a liking to this particular bridge and therefore ordered it to be spared. This structure with three stone arches replaced a wooden bridge which had crossed the Arno River at this spot since Roman times. The original bridge was destroyed by flood in 1117, and was reconstructed in stone, but was once again swept away in the terrible flood of November 1333, when according to the chronicles of Giovanni Villani, all but the two central piers, was swept away when huge logs in the rushing water became clogged around the it, allowing the water to build and “leap over the arches.” It was rebuilt in 1345.

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The bridge has always had shops along it, and initially these were butchers’ shops, but it is reported that the Medici family, who used the corridor on the second level as a pathway across the river, decided the smell of raw meat was too nauseating, so in the late 16th century, the meat was replaced with something much less offensive to the nostrils; gold, silver and jewels.  Today, as well as jewellers, there are also art dealers and souvenir sellers.

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Along the bridge there are many padlocks to be seen, affixed in various places. This  is a quite recent tradition which has also sprung up  in Russia and in Asia, and is popularly connected to the idea that by locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river, lovers become eternally bonded. In the case of the Ponte Vecchio, it is suspected to have been the bright idea of a locksmith who just happened to have a shop on the bridge. 🙂 Thousands of such ‘love locks’ have had to be removed because they were damaging the metal rails on the bridge, and a sign was put up forbidding the practice and warning of a hefty fine for people caught, but nevertheless people still  do it.

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Hubby and I have no doubt that after all these years, our love will last forever, so we didn’t need to risk the fine. 🙂

I hope you’ve enjoyed my bridge photos and the bit of history too. To see more entries for Jake’s theme, just click here

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Near and Far

This gallery contains 8 photos.

Here are my photos for this week’s ‘Near and Far’ WordPress Photo Challenge. The first was taken from our colourful long-tail boat, as we were ferried around the ‘Khlongs’ in Bangkok. This one was taken from the Moorish castle which … Continue reading

Jake’s Sunday Post: Reflections

Once again, Jake has given us a wonderful new theme. Photos which feature reflections are often very attractive, as they have an extra dimension to them. Here are a few of mine.

This was taken through our coach window, one rainy spring evening in Paris.

The gardens of the beautiful Alhambra Palace in Granada have lovely water features which yield many reflections. I put this one in especially for Marianne of ‘East of Malaga‘, who seems to have a thing about this particular Spanish garden. 🙂

In order to see the traditional Thai way of living in Bangkok, one needs to take a tour of the ‘khlongs’ of Thonburi, the old capital city situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. These old waterways have avoided much of the modern development of the rest of the city, and still retain their ramshackle charm.

I couldn’t leave the magnificent Li River out of my collection, so here is a pic showing the wonderful reflections of those picturesque green karst hills which line the river between Guilin and Yangshuo. Some of the fisherman still live on traditional houseboats.

Of course when looking for photos of reflections in water, Venice is always a good bet.

Florence has the beautiful medieval Ponte Vecchio, which in Italian simply means ‘old bridge.’ It spans the Arno River, and was one of the many highlights of our Italian tour last year.

This is the opulently decorated lobby of our hotel in Marrakech. On our arrival, it looked like a palace to me, but of course as one often finds in big, fancy hotels, the rooms weren’t nearly as spacious as one might have expected. 🙂

Washington has many opportunities for snapping a few reflections, and this photo was taken one July 4th, when people were out celebrating Independence Day on the lawns surrounding the famous ‘Reflecting Pool’ which lies between the Lincoln memorial and the imposing Washington Monument, a marble obelisk built to commemorate the first U.S. president, General George Washington.

Last but by no means least, is my very favourite reflection photo of them all, taken in Amsterdam long before digital cameras came into being. If you imagine that Venice is  the only romantic city boasting beautiful canals, you’re very much mistaken. Canals are a symbol of Amsterdam, and are now proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city is sometimes known as “The Venice of the north,”  and if you’ve been there, you will know why.

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my selection of reflections for Jake’s theme. To see more entries, just click here.

Lovely Florence, Michelangelo’s David and an Italian bridegroom.

Continuing on with my Italian trip in October last year:

After leaving Capri, we took the ferry back to Naples, and experienced the first rain of our trip. Fortunately, we were travelling by coach for most of the day, so it didn’t matter at all. We started off on our journey to Tuscany, passing settlements of shack dwellings on the outskirts of the city. This pic was taken through a rain spattered window in the coach.

I can’t think where that old saying, “See Naples and die,” came from, as it didn’t strike me as a place I would want to spend any time in. The streets looked dirty, and the buildings in a bad state of repair. Maybe we just had to drive through the less salubrious part from the docks in order to get onto the highway. That phrase was most probably coined during the city’s “Golden Age” in the reign of the Bourbons. I believe that there is a royal palace at Caserta, which has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. It has 1,200 rooms and is one of the largest and most opulent buildings to be built in Europe during the 18th century.

Our coach was very comfortable with lots of leg room, as there were only forty seats, unlike most, which have fifty-five. The sun peeped through the clouds as we drove along the highway, with the Apennine mountain range on our right, and on our left, small towns like this one perched high up on the hillside.

When we stopped for a comfort break, our guide suddenly produced trays of fresh Santa Rosa Sfogliatelle, a delicacy of Naples, which our driver Fabio, had collected from the bakery early that morning.

These delicious baked pastries are shaped like a lobster tail, filled with yellow custard and topped with cherries. So delicious, but impossible to eat in a lady-like manner. Fortunately, serviettes were also provided to wipe our sticky paws.

We arrived in Florence, ‘Firenze’ as it is called in Italian, in the mid afternoon, and were taken to the ‘Hotel Brunelleschi’ which is a magnificently restored historical building, under the ‘Dome of Mary of the Flowers’, right in the city centre. The Paggliazza Tower which forms part of the hotel, dates back to the 6th century, and is the oldest standing structure in Florence.

Our room was lovely, but not nearly as big as the one in Capri, and despite being really grand, there was not a single drawer to put anything in, and the wardrobe had no doors on it. The marble bathroom was gorgeous, but had not a single shelf or surface to stand any bottles, so my lotions and magic potions had to be relegated to the floor.

We had a guided walk around the ‘City of the Flowers’, and as we emerged into the main street, we were amused and delighted to see this exuberant bridegroom-to-be, being transported to his wedding by his enthusiastic groomsmen.

In the Republic Square, was a grand parade of men wearing ancient soldiers’ uniforms, celebrating the anniversary of the founding of the city’s police force.

This is only a replica of Michelangelo’s David, the original having been moved to the museum, to protect it from pigeon poo and vandals.

The Italians do love their statues. and they were everywhere;  famous scientists, philosophers and astrologers, as well as this one of the Roman god Perseus, holding the severed head of Medusa, with her corpse at his feet.

The Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of Florence’s six bridges, is one of the city’s best known images and is lined with expensive Goldsmith’s shops.

Our guide told us that in this area a small one-bedroomed apartment overlooking the river, can cost in the region of 800,000 Euros.

At the entrance to the bridge, we saw a whole collection of padlocks. Legend has it that if you and your loved one attach a padlock to any surface of the famous bridge and then throw the key into the Arno River below, your love will last forever. Millions of couples have come to the Ponte Vecchio for expressly this reason, to lock in their love and throw away the key for eternity. Most of the padlocks had to be removed by the city council, as they were spoiling the bridge’s beauty. Nowadays to discourage this practice, there is a hefty fine for anyone seen doing this, so some couples just come to touch the remaining locks and make a wish that their love will last forever.

The beautiful Gothic style “Duomo” in Cathedral Square, begun in the year 1296 and only completed in 1436, is 110m high and has four hundred and sixty-five steps to the terrace at the top; no lift of course.

Florence is absolutely infested with sculptures, like this Neptune figure whose face is said to resemble Cosimo I de’ Medici. He stands on a high pedestal in the middle of an octagonal fountain, the middle of which is decorated with many more mythical figures. This was the first public fountain in Florence and is in the Piazza Della Signoria,

No photography was allowed inside the museum, so you are spared more statue pics, but we did see the original ‘David’ which weighs in at 6 tons. The story behind this masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture, is that Michelangelo stole cadavers from graveyards at night, to use as models for his statue. He looked like a perfect specimen to me, but our guide pointed out that there is an iron fault line in some of the marble, which has resulted in him having blue veins in his legs, so take heart ladies, even the magnificent David has ‘varicose veins’.  😉

Wishing you all a great weekend. Next week, I’ll take you all to see the beautiful Tuscan town of San Gimignano.