When in Florence, it’s hard to miss the Arno River. This magnificent river flows from Mount Falterona, down through Florence, Empoli, and finally Pisa, where it flows into the sea.
Several bridges span the Arno in Florence, all of which can be crossed on foot and all but the Ponte Vecchio permit cars to cross. From east to west, the bridges in order are: Ponte San Niccolò, Ponte alle Grazie, Ponte Vecchio, Ponte Santa Trinita, Ponte alla Carraia and Ponte Amerigo Vespucci.
Here’s a bit of information about the three bridges that crosses the Arno in the historic centre of Florence.
Built very close to the Roman crossing, the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, was until 1218 the only bridge across the Arno in Florence. The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. During World War II it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. On November 4, 1966, the bridge miraculously withstood the tremendous weight of water and silt when the Arno once again burst its banks.
Ponte Santa Trinita
Named for the church of Santa Trinita nearby, this is probably the third oldest bridge in Florence – although it was rebuilt many times. The way we see it now is the way it was reconstructed after nazi bombing. The elliptical form of the arches has been paraleled to the curve of the top of the tombs in the Medici Chapels. At the center of each arch is a white marble cartouche, and at either end of the bridge there are two allegorical statues representing the four seasons from 1608. After the bombing of 1944, the statues were fished out of the Arno, but the head of Spring has never been found.
Ponte alla Carraia
The first mention of the bridge (then built in wood) dates from 1218. Destroyed by a flood in 1274, it was soon reconstructed, but fell down again in 1304 under the weight of a crowd who had met to watch a spectacle. It was the first bridge in the city rebuilt after the 1333 flood, perhaps under design of Giotto. Again damaged in 1557, it was remade by will of Grand Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. Enlarged during the 19th century, the bridge was blown up by the retreating German Army during World War II (1944). Apparently, though, when the bridge was re-opened in 1952, citizens criticized its particularly heightened curve, nicknaming it Ponte Gobbo (hunchback).