The City of Florence is divided in two by the river Arno, but its charming bridges give it a harmonious sense of continuity between the two sides. All of Florence’s bridges share centuries of history. The oldest and most famous is certainly Ponte Vecchio, mentioned by author Dan Brown in his novel Inferno. However, the other bridges are also important and noteworthy, given their stories, particularities, and that they have become real monuments.
The Arno river flows through the city from the south, passing under Ponte San Niccolò, Ponte alle Grazie, characteristic Ponte Vecchio with its Vasari Corridor, Ponte Santa Trinita, Ponte alla Carraia, Ponte A. Vespucci, Ponte alla Vittoria, and finally saying farewell to Florence with Ponte all’Indiano.
The first and only bridge built during the Roman period, around the middle of the first century BC, Ponte Vecchio is one of the symbols of Florence. It is the only bridge that was spared by the Germans in their retreat during the Second World War in 1944, and it attracts tourists from all over the world. For more information on Ponte Vecchio, please read our blog at http://www.florenceinferno.com/ponte-vecchio/
Ponte San Niccolò
Conceived in 1317, it should have been called Ponte Reale in honor of King Roberto d’Angiò, the head of Guelph. However, the Florentines stopped building the bridge after laying the first stone. The bridge was finally built in 1837 and called the San Ferdinando Bridge in honor of the Lorraine, at that time the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. It was originally a suspension bridge held up by metal strings stretched between each bank of the Arno. After then being swept away by the flood of 1844, the bridge was rebuilt in 1853 while maintaining a metallic structure.
In 1890, the bridge was renovated to allow the passage of the tram, and was then closed in 1939.
Like all other Florentine bridges, with the exception of the Ponte Vecchio, it was mined and destroyed during the Second World War, and rebuilt in 1949 with the existing concrete structure, with a single arch.
As this bridge is near the weir of the same name that supplied water to the mills located within the walls, it was renamed Ponte San Niccolò after the fall of Lorraine family.
Ponte alle Grazie
It was built in 1237 entirely of stone, with nine arches, in the widest part of the river. It was named the Rubaconte Bridge after the name of the podestà at the time.
Ponte alle Grazie survived the violent flood of 1333, and in 1347, two of the arches on the left bank were closed allow the expansion of Mozzi square. As early as 1292, many chapels, hermitages, and shops were built above the pillars, among which was a Madonna called Santa Maria alle Grazie (late XIII-early XIV century), from which the bridge takes its current name.
The buildings that stood there were demolished in 1876 to allow the passage of trams. Destroyed by the Germans in 1944, a competition was held in the following year for the reconstruction (completed in 1957). It was won by a group of architects that included Giovanni Michelucci, who later became famous for the project of Santa Maria Novella train station.
Ponte Santa Trinita
The bridge take its name after the church of the Holy Trinity. The first wooden bridge, whose construction was funded by the nobleman Lamberto Frescobaldi, dates to 1252.
After collapsing in 1259, it was replaced by a stone bridge, which was then swept away by the flood of 1333.
Reconstruction lasted from 1346 to 1415, but another flood destroyed the bridge in 1557. Cosimo I commissioned the Italian architect and sculptor Bartolomeo Ammannati to undertake the construction of the new bridge. Planning took 10 years, and it seems that Michelangelo was involved in its design.
The structural innovation that anticipates the fashion of the baroque style is its characteristic line of the three elliptical arches.
The bridge owes its elegance, even its treble supporting pylons, which avoid logs that remain entangled during floods, to the white scrolls on the arches and the four allegorical statues that decorate the corners and depict the Four Seasons. The latter were placed in 1608 for the occasion of the wedding of Cosimo II with Magdalena of Austria.
Ponte alla Carraia
When it was built in 1218, this bridge was called the New Bridge to distinguish it from what was already there. But since it was intended for the transit of wagons, it was renamed “Alla Carraia.”
After collapsing several times, such as around 1294 and 1333, it was rebuilt first in wood, then in wood and stone. After its fall in 1557, it was finally rebuilt all in stone. It held the same appearance until the Second World War, when the Germans destroyed it.
In 1948, it was rebuilt while maintaining the structure of the old project with 5 arches. However, once completed in 1952, the bridge was strongly criticized by the Florentines for its very sharp curve and was thus nicknamed “the humpbacked bridge.”
Ponte A. Vespucci
One of the most modern bridges of Florence, it connects the Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci to Lungarno Soderini. In 1908, the district of San Frediano was to be affected by a redevelopment plan that was never implemented.
The first bridge to serve the district of San Frediano was installed in 1949 and opened the following year. It was made from recycled materials from suspension bridges destroyed by the retreating German, resting on pylon masonry. It served as a passage that temporarily replaced Ponte alla Carraia and San Niccolò, which were under construction.
Between 1952 and 1954, there was a competition for the construction of the new bridge, subsequently built between 1955 and 1957. The bridge’s three bays are distinguished by clean lines that make it resemble tape stretched from shore to shore.
Ponte alla Vittoria
Erected in 1835, this bridge was built from iron and suspended by order of Leopold II. It was given the name San Leopoldo, also in memory of the Lorraine.
The bridge already had great commercial importance at that time: it joined three major provinces (Pisa, Livorno, and Pistoia), linking one of the main industries in Florence, the Pignone, born in the second half of 1800, with the sea and the railway.
The suspension bridge was decorated with four metal pillars, each of which was topped by a solemn marble lion and placed at one of the corners of the bridge, later removed.
After the departure of the Lorraine, the bridge was simply called Suspended.
The Battle of Vittorio Veneto, which marked the end of the First World War, was a starting point to resume the renovation of the bridge, patriotically entitled Victory.
The bridge was bombarded by the Nazis and rebuilt almost immediately; it was reinforced and covered with stone balustrades in bronze and with three arches.
Also called the Indian viaduct or bridge, it is the youngest bridge in Florence.
Built between 1972 and 1978, it unites the districts of Peretola and Isolotto through a fast road that crosses the river Arno, where the Mugnone creek flows.
The Indiano Bridge is made of iron and steel, and comprises two box girders connected by bearers and horizontal braces. Like all other bridges in Florence, it an architectural work worthy of note.
The name of the bridge stems from the fact that it was built near the tomb Dell’Indiano, the monument dedicated to the Indian prince Chuttraputti Rajaram, who died in Florence at the age of 21, and whose ashes were scattered at the confluence of the Arno and Mugnone, according to the Hindu rite.