After a fun but busy week in the Artviva office, the office staff headed out for a Friday-night glass of wine (strictly in the interests of research, we promise!).
Despite us having lived in Florence for a combined total of well over 20 years, our breaths are still taken away by the stunning sun-set view of the Ponte Vecchio from the Ponte Santa Trinità on the way to the charming Oltrarno area.
One of Florence’s must-see sights, the Ponte Vecchio never loses its appeal, being both for its beauty as much for as its rich history.
The first bridge was built in Roman times at the narrowest point of the Arno river, but since then the Ponte Vecchio has been washed away several times, re-built, saved from bombing during two world wars, and has been crossed by some of Italy’s, and indeed the world’s most important figures from all fields of life.
Initially lined with butcher stores, placed away from Florence’s historic city centre so as not to have the associated smells offending the delicate noses of the inner-city locals, the butchers were eventually kindly asked to leave as the off-cuts which were thrown out the windows were polluting the under-running Arno river ? although the fact that the ruling Medici family had also built the Vasari Corridor atop may have also had something to do with the request!
Vasari’s Corridor (‘Corridoio Vasariano’) was built to run from the Town Hall of Palazzo Vecchio in Piazza della Signora, across the top of the Uffizi Gallery (which was then a collection of ‘uffizi’ -offices- before it was turned into a gallery by the generous donation of the Medici art collection by the last surviving Medici family member). Running then over the Ponte Vecchio, the Vasari Corridor concludes in Piazza Pitti ? once home to the Medici family.
The Vasari Corridor thus permitted the Medici and other important figures to cross the city from the Town Hall to their home without having to be held up by the adoring masses (in good times) or the rotten-fruit-throwing critics (in not such good times).
Crossing the Ponte Vecchio from Florence’s historic city centre to the Oltrarno area (which literally means something like ‘across the Arno’), today you find many gold jewellery stores and other artisan stores. Hence, whilst it is the narrowest point of the Arno river to cross, it can take some time to wander past all the shop windows from where all that glitters really is gold!
Florence is known for its gold jewellery artisan work. By law, Italian gold is always 18k and made nickel-free, 75% pure gold with other metals mixed in to give relatively soft gold some strength so as to be able to formed into the famous Florentine designs. Some examples include mosaic jewellery ? gold with a scattering of brightly coloured gemstones, the two-in-one reversible white and yellow gold necklaces designed to sit flat on the neck to reveal either just the white gold or just the yellow. Then there are the cameos, the shell component being carefully carved in Naples before being transported to Florence to be set in gold, and ‘diamond-cut’ bracelets, necklaces and even rings formed from tiny beads of gold carved with facets like diamonds so that they sparkle in the light. There are Roman coins set into pendants and rings, bright coral beads made into fabulous sprays of colourful necklaces, eye-catching gems set on bling rings, and of course, diamonds.
The overlooking Piazzale Michelangelo can be spied from one side, the bronze copy of the David just visible if you know where to look. On the other side, spires and steeples spear out from the ancient collection of Renaissance buildings, churches and citrus-hued buildings where the locals live.
With the Vasari Corridor still running over the top, mid-way across the bridge are arches opening up the street-level walkway to the stunning sights of the Florence city lining the river, the Tuscan countryside a jewel in itself on the distant horizon too precious for any finger, too splendid to adorn even the most delicate of necks.
You too can walk in the footsteps of kings along the top of the Ponte Vecchio. Artviva has the Uffizi and Vasari Corridor tour package, including a two-hour skip-the-line guided tour of the Uffizi Gallery with our expert guide, followed by an exclusive-entry guided tour of the Vasari Corridor with the Original Uffizi Gallery and Exclusive -Entry Vasari Corridor Tour.
For a small-group city walk in Florence, we have the Original Florence Walk with an expert Artviva tour guide accompanying you to see the must-see sights of Florence in a 3-hour guided tour of the historical city centre.
To explore Florence’s Oltrarno area, and have a wine tasting in a charming wine bar, all in the company of an expert Florence tour guide, we have the Original Evening Walk.
We can also arrange a private guided tour of the ancient Medici family home with the My Exclusive Visit to the Pitti Palace, as well as a wide array of other great private guided tours in Florence, offering an exclusive expert tour guide to see your choice of must-see sights in Florence.