Ponte Vecchio, Florence

Florence is so full of remarkable creations that a person could spend weeks — years, even — in the city and never see them all. There is the Duomo, the magnificent and gravity-defying dome; the David, Michelangelo’s revered sculpture; the endless treasures of the Medici. I could go on and on.

Ponte Vecchio and Arno River, Florence, Italy
Single shot, focal length 58mm, aperture f/11, shutter speed 8 seconds, ISO 31, tripod.

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But there are other, more serviceable works of art as well. Along the Arno, the great river that courses through the city, there are numerous bridges, some quite elaborate and others more pedestrian. The oldest and the most storied of these is the Ponte Vecchio, the stone bridge lined with shops and built in the Medieval period.

The exact date of its construction is uncertain, although there is a mention of the bridge in a document in 996. It isn’t known with any certainty who built the bridge, although it is likely that it was the work of Dominican friars. More interesting to me is the bridge’s remarkable history. Over the centuries, the Ponte Vecchio has endured everything from floods to warfare, although the bridge was the only one not destroyed by the Germans as they retreated from the city during World War II. Perhaps they, too, were awed by the bridge’s formidable history.

The Ponte Vecchio, I thought, was a bit like Florence itself. Ancient, grand, and able to withstand things that would break a lesser place. All of Florence’s bridges have their stories, but it is the Ponte Vecchio that, for me, encapsulates the spirit of the city and its people. So when I photographed the bridge, I had no interest in experimenting with unusual angles or special lighting. I wanted to look straight ahead and capture the most direct view of the bridge to create an image that conveys its strength and remarkable longevity.

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