Ponte Vecchio

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The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge", Italian pronunciation: [ˈponte ˈvɛkkjo])[1][2] is a Medieval bridge 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. It has been described as Europe's oldest wholly-stone, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge,[1] but there are far older segmental arch bridges such as Alconétar Bridge. The Ponte Vecchio's two neighbouring bridges are the Ponte Santa Trinità and the Ponte alle Grazie.


History and construction

The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point[3] where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman times,[4] when the via Cassia crossed the river at this point.[3] The Roman piers were of stone, the superstructure of wood. The bridge first appears in a document of 996.[3] After being destroyed by a flood in 1117 it was reconstructed in stone but swept away again in 1333[4] save two of its central piers, as noted by Giovanni Villani in his Nuova Cronica.[5] It was rebuilt in 1345,[6] Giorgio Vasari recorded the tradition in his day, that attributed its design to Taddeo Gaddi,[1] besides Giotto one of the few artistic names of the trecento still recalled two hundred years later. Modern historians present Neri di Fioravanti as a possible candidate.[3] 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.[7] The Torre dei Mannelli was built at the southeast corner of the bridge to defend it.

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