by Melinda Gallo published on December 27, 2009
The first time I came to Florence for a visit I made the rounds of the monuments. I mostly remember seeing the Duomo, the Ponte Vecchio, and crowds of people everywhere. My initial impression of the Ponte Vecchio is that it was small, dirty, and congested. I was only in town for one day, and looking back I wish that I would've had time to contemplate the ponte (bridge) from the other ponti on either side of it. Instead I walked across it and back, peering into the brightly lit vetrine (shop windows) with gold jewelry on display.
Now that I've been living in Florence for many years, I have come to appreciate the Ponte Vecchio even more. I've run across it early in the morning when the shops are closed, I've made my way through the crowds at the height of tourist season, I've stood silently along the low wall behind the statue of Cellini to observe the fiume (river), I've listened to a musician play in the evenings, and I've even traversed the ponte in the Corridoio Vasariano (Vasari Corridor) above.
Over the years, I've been fortunate to see the ponte from so many different angles as well: a rooftop terrace, Ponte alle Grazie to the east and Ponte Santa Trinità to the west, and from the Piazzale Michelangiolo. It is not only one of Florence's most distinguishable monuments, but it is also the oldest ponte joining the two halves of Florence: the hustle and bustle of the centro (city center) and the provincial and more artisan side.
Everyone who comes to Florence makes their way to Ponte Vecchio. Every language can be heard: from Chinese and Japanese to German and English. I can always gage how busy the tourist season is by how crowded the ponte is.
I enjoy standing in the middle of the ponte to look down at the fiume to see what color it is and to watch the people go by. Tour guides hold up flags or umbrellas so their groups gather around while they explain the history of the ponte. I always find it hard to believe that instead of the jewelers that line both sides of the ponte, there used to be macellerie (butchers).
The Ponte Vecchio is beautiful from afar seen in its entirety, but over the years I have come to appreciate it more since that first visit. I have seen so many different aspects of the Ponte Vecchio that now I don't see it as crowded and dirty. I notice the beauty all around: the details on the wooden doors of the jewelry shops, the affresco (fresco) that hangs under a roof in the shade, the flowers blooming on a terrace overhead, the sundial on the corner of the roof, and the breathtaking views of the city.
I never tire of walking across the Ponte Vecchio and I am happy each time I see something that I hadn't noticed before. I feel it is one of those monuments that has to be seen multiple times to fully treasure it. I was mistaken to believe that I could walk across it once and think that I had experienced it. I enjoy visiting the Ponte Vecchio: it has a life of its own and it is never the same no matter what time of day or night it is.
©2009 Melinda Gallo. Photos by Melinda Gallo.
Architect, Writer, Artist
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