Florence, city of art, towers, and beautiful bridges, which span the river Arno and harmoniously criss-cross the medieval city. Of the six bridges, five were bombed in the Second World War, but have been reconstructed to match their former glory, and each has its own character and historical secrets. |
Our innovative, escorted Florence tours can bring the stories of some of the city's most memorable bridges to life with the help of one of our passionate guides. Here is a little teaser of the bridges that you may encounter.
Ponte alle Grazie
This used to be a covered bridge resembling Ponte Vecchio, with shops, houses, hermitages and chapels built above the pillars – it’s from one of these, the Santa Maria alle Grazie, that the bridge gets its name. These were demolished in 1876 to make way for trams, and the bridge has changed form again since its destruction in 1944.
Ponte San Niccolò
Ponte San Niccolò is recognisable as the only single-arched bridge in Florence. Constructed from reinforced cement, it was originally a suspended metal bridge, finished in 1837, after having been conceived back in 1317. It also was originally called the San Ferdinando Bridge, in honour of the Lorraine family, but after their fall from power, this was changed to San Niccolò, taking its name from the nearby weir.
The oldest and most famous of all the bridges in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio is one of the city’s great landmarks and the focus of many Florence tours, helped by the fact that it’s the only bridge that’s free from traffic. It’s also the only original surviving bridge spared from the bombing in World War Two.
Built in 1345 to replace an older set of bridges that had collapsed in flooding, it first served as a defensive structure before being filled with butcher’s shops. Since the end of the 1500s it has been the domain of jewellers and goldsmiths, which was also the period when the famed Vasari corridor was constructed at the top of the bridge to allow the rich and powerful Medici family to cross between their palaces on either side of the river without fear of assassination. Now you can follow in their footsteps too, with a wide central gallery giving stunning views over the sun-tinted river – a truly romantic spot.
Ponte Santa Trinita
Taking its name from the nearby church, the Ponte Santa Trinita was originally designed by the architect Ammannati, with the possible support of Michelangelo. At either end of the bridge, there used to stand statues, made in 1608, representing the four seasons. These were all recovered from the river following the bombing in 1944, except for the head of “Spring”, which was not found until the early 1960s.
Ponte alla Carraia
This is the second oldest bridge in the city after the Ponte Vecchio, dating back to the 1300s, which is why it is sometimes known as the Ponte Nuovo. It has frequently been rebuilt in different ways, with the current version owing to the vision of Ammannati. It was carefully reconstructed in the 1950s, but that didn’t prevent it escaping the criticism of some of the locals who thought its sharpened curve was like a hunchback.
Ponte Amerigo Vespucci
Lastly, there’s the Ponte Amerigo Vespucci, a wholly modern bridge, built in the 1950s and named after the explorer who in turn gave his own name to the Americas. The bridge leads from the medieval centre to San Frediano, a very old area of the city, which is well worth exploring further on one of our longer Florence tours.
Touring the Bridges
There are many more secrets than these to discover, so why not book one of our ArtViva Florence tours? With no need to book in advance, our experienced guides can show you the true, beating heart of the city, and the best places to gain a sense of what makes Italy so special.
Rose Magers is an Australian-born Italophile and the founder of ArtViva. With an international reputation for excellence and creativity, ArtViva are at the forefront of escorted day tours in Italy. Rose has indulged her own passion for history and the arts by designing an innovative range of exceptional small group Florence tours and experiences, from guided visits to view the masterpieces of the great art galleries to unforgettable Italian cookery and art classes.
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