First 2 weeks trip, Veneto area, Italy

5.5. Leaving Florence

It was 20:25 and we had a long drive to Cesena and our HospitalityClub friend GianCarlo. The shortest road (which Giancy had recommended instead of the highway via Bologna, ”badly jammed by trucks” which would have been 80 km) was 130 km and that was supposed to take 2-2,5 hours. Well – the route consisted mainly of serpentine roads with hundreds and hundreds of curves, every second one being so sharp that an unaccustomed driver had to switch down to 2nd. And it was pitch-dark most of the time. One soon learned a suitable rhythm – accelerate, brake, accelerate, break – but it was rather exhausting after a couple of hours – luckily there were some ”normal” parts in the valleys once in a while. We thought it was no wonder that Italian Massimo Biassion had been such a good rally driver having trained in such roads… But eventually we were in Cesena. Which was a bigger city than we had thought. We stopped to ask for advice from the customers of a pub. And followed a couple of them who were just leaving with their car. Luckily we were already almost ”behind the corner”. 

There was no light in Giancy´s windows. We had tried to phone him 2-3 times as we were driving but in vain – no answer. Perhaps he didn´t want to answer… We were prepared to sleep in the car which would have been quite difficult. Beside the gate in front of the house there were two door phones. We pushed a button – and heard a friendly voice answering: ”Well hello! Please wait a second, I put something on before coming to open the gate…” It turned out that he had forgot his cell phone on silent mode and hadn´t heard our calls! We got a very warm and hearty welcoming. After chatting a while over teacups we got to sleep in Giancy´s own double-bed, Teemu on a sofa. We wondered a little about where GianCarlo himself slept. In the morning we knew: he had slept on the floor on a mattress…

Saturday 6.5. Chioggia – “Little Venice” 

In the morning we should´ve gone off early but we had such a good time (and had come so late in the evening) that we started the car at about 10.50. Cesena was anyway just a stopover on the route to Venice. Our next target was however – largely inspired by Giancy´s suggestions – Chioggia, or ”Little Venice”. It´s situated by the sea 140 km north of Cesena and 55 km south of Venice. It´s actually in the southern end of the same laguna as Venice is in the northern part of. The distance to Venice is only 25 km by water. Chioggia is indeed very charming and, what was the most important, there are several  bridges… Most of them are old but they are largely very similar and not very original. The most interesting of them was the newest one. It looked quite new and connects the old town to a newer part, the former cement factory area over Canal Lombardo. It was made of wood and steel and seemed like someone really had put an effort in its design. We couldn´t manage to find out its official name but the Chioggians call it “Ponte de Fero”, Iron bridge. It is a bascule bridge (lift bridge) in order not to prevent the vivid boat traffic too much (Chioggia is one of the biggest fishing ports in the Adriatic sea and the water traffic is otherwise busy there, too). P5062228

 

 

Still there was perhaps an even more powerful bridge there – just on the end of both the lagoon and Canal Vene slicing the old town in two – the Ponte Vigo. It forms a balcony to the sea for the citizens of this town. This bridge is quite overwhelming compared to the other seven bridges in the canal. It was built in 1685 ordered by mayor Morosini to replace the former wooden bridge, the fire safety of which was considered poor. Originally the bridge was made of brick like the other bridges in the canal but the cladding and statues of Isthrian marble were added in 1762. In this place there had been a wooden bridge at least already in 1379-80 during the war of Chioggia. As a result of this war between Venice and Genoa, Venice won control over Mediterranean commerceP5062256 – kopioThe lion statues, though impressing, are so small in the eyes of Venetians that they call them ”pussycats”. When we examined our photos afterwards we saw that the lions hold with one front paw a rounded stone tablet with three short lines of text. Unfortunately the tablets aren´t to be seen so sharply in the pictures that one could read them. In the middle parts of the facades there are reliefs portraying Virgin Mary and patron saints of the city, San Felice and S. Fortunato.

Inside the parapets there are stone benches for the citizens to sit. And yes, on a clear day you can see even Venice reasonably well. Before the time of electric light there has been also a lighthouse or a beacon in the middle of the bridge to guide the seafarers. 

We´d also like to mention that the bell tower of nearby Sant´Andrea church is hundreds of years older than the church itself, from 11th or 12th century. The bell is said to be the oldest tower bell in the world – who knows?

We were back by the car at 16 O´Clock after an ice cream break (it was torridly hot at least after coming from Finland´s spring, 28 degrees Celsius if not more) and drove on a while.  Our original plan was to visit Venice next but because: 1) it was still hot and we were rather exhausted after the day before and lack of sleep and 2) Now that we had reached the nearness of Venice and eaten it was clear that after Venice we would again be hopelessly late at our next host couple. They had told we could stay there two nights and visit Venice in between. We decided to grab the bait even if it would ”destroy” our schedule. It would be wise to restore our strength for the rest of the trip…

We had still 70 km left to Vicenza via Padua, again largely on a regional road beside the highway. In Vicenza we had to ask for advice before a roundabout to be able to choose the right direction. Partly because the signing (and of course the whole environment) is slightly different and has a different logic than we were used to. Anyway now at the latest it was evident that even a very limited vocabulary – just a few words – of local language helps surprisingly much. And in this specific case it was utmost useful that we had seen Dario´s and Roberta´s house beforehand in GoogleEarth´s aerial view. Namely, the house is not seen from the street and there´s no sign or number showing its existence…  But well, now we were there and again getting acquainted with people we had been in an intense e-mail contact with. 

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Vicenza by night – Palladio´s Basilica in the middle

Late at night Roberta, Dario, Roberta´s sister and her husband Diego hosted a stroll in the historical old town of Vicenza which has excellently survived its medieval and renassaince look. Vicenza, apart of being a wealthy city of gold and jewellery business, also Città Palladiana, listed as a Unesco World Heritage site mainly because of the works (23 in all) of architect Andrea Palladio (1508-80). There´s also a research there, Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio.

The great master condensed his experience and theories in a book published in 1570, I quattro libri dell´arquitettura, Four Books on Architecture, which is mentioned at courses of the history of architecture throughout the world. The only still existing stone bridge designed by him is also situated in Vicenza.  

Before the stroll we had had an evening meal in the garden of our hosts. This filled a gap in our civilization: we were asked if we´d like to have some spritz. That was by then an unknown word for us. Spritz means wine which is diluted by adding about the same amount water to it. In a warm climate this is quite reasonable – one has to drink but necessarily to get drunk. And it doesn´t taste bad either, especially when white wine based. In Northern Italy this is probably a common practice but: when Giancarlo from Cesena which is somewhat more to the south visited us with two friends 3 years later they rolled their heads and said: a true Italian doesn´t mix his wine with water…  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As we arrived to Dario and Roberta we had just a couple hundred meters before their house driven past one of the finest works of Palladio: Villa Capra or ”La Rotonda”. It really takes over the landscape on its splendid situation. Its round cupola is inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. The building project took a long time and it was completed after Palladio´s death by another Vicentian architect, his apprentice and successor Vincenzo Scamozzi. Scamozzi´s influence shows mostly in the cupola being much lower than the half ball intended by Palladio.  Just less than 1 km away towards the old center there is another fine villa of Andrea Palladio, Villa Valmarana ai Nani. Palladio´s and Scamozzi´s names will emerge again later as we get to Ponte Rialto in Venice and Palladio´s even a bit later, 8.5. in Bassano.

Sunday 7.5. Vicenza – the city of Palladio and Ponte San Michele

Morning walk with Roberta this time in daylight to Ponte San Michele made of local white marble; shootings from pedestrian level but also, luckily, from the balcony of Roberta´s other sister and her architect husband.  On the same walk were taken photos of a beautiful small footbridge from 1911 built by Andrea and Cesare Piovene (refurbished in 2001). This suspension bridge was made of iron and is thus called simply Ponte di Ferro. It´s only that the photo files have so far (probably forever) disappeared… We had seen its alike also as we drove through Padua.

Ponte San Michele is named after a church built at this site 1264 and demolished 1810. There are some remnants of its foundations still to be seen on the bank of river Retrone by the bridge.

As the church was built there was a wooden bridge here which was replaced by a new one in 1265. When it had been washed away by flood, this time was built a stone bridge by Fredericius De Mur, made of marble from Montecchio (southwest of Vicenza) in 1422. In the middle of the bridge there was a column with Venice´s symbol, the lion of St. Marc, and the seal of Vicenza´s mayor carved on it. This bridge had to be repaired three times between 1517 and 1533. And again it was damaged by flood pretty badly in 1574. In spite of all this, the work of De Mur was about to reach the age of 200 years, when it collapsed 20.4.1619.  In september it was then decided that a new structure should be built. In june 1620 the architect and sculptor brothers Tommaso and Francesco Contini (or Contin, in Venetian dialect) were hired to do the job. The Ponte San Michele of today was built according to their plans 1621-23, again of stone brought from quarries in Montecchio.

Tommaso and Francesco were born in Lugano which is today part of Switzerland although quite near the border of Italy. By the time of the bridge project they lived in Venice where they had already made significant careers. They belonged to a family of architects including their father Bernardino, their elder brother Antonio and their step-grandfather Antonio da Ponte. The three brothers had attended the building of the famous Ponte Rialto in Venice 30 years earlier, supervised by da Ponte. The arch openings of these two bridges are also said to be somewhat equal. That´s true at least if one compares their span length: about 29 meters each.  Here are the two bridges to compare, San Michele on the left and Rialto on the right: They are seen from different angle and in different light, too but we´d say their curvature is not the same… On the upper left corner there´s the balcony from which some of the next pics were taken. 

 

At first the actual works, started 8.8.1621, were conducted by a colleague of Contins, Giambattista Albanese. He had made statues both in the facades and interior of Palladio´s Rotonda mentioned earlier. However, he should perhaps have stayed at the art of sculpture; construction engineering of this project was apparently too demanding for him because the supervision of works was handed to Tommaso Contin already 3 weeks later due to collapse of scaffoldings.  Francesco Soré was in charge of masonry and Battista Bonetto acted as taiapiera, the first stone cutter.

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On the right you can see remnants of the demolished church San Michele on both sides.

P5072307 – kopioP5072295 – kopioAfter the bridge was put to use in 1623, Tommaso Contini was occupied with the reconstruction of the cathedral in Chioggia, which had been destroyed by fire the same year. 

The citizens considered the bridge beautiful but too steep for horse carriages. It was originally made without parapets but five years after its completion they were decided to have added, though. Such a mass of individually carved vase-like balusters was obviously quite expensive and so the final funding for the finishing works was not granted until 1636.  P5072321 – kopioP5072324 – kopioThere´s a long bench  on the other side of the bridge which is probably one of the reasons why Ponte San Michele  is known as lovers´ bridge. Luckily it doesn´t hold any structures where it would be easy to attach love padlocks… P5072329 – kopio

 

There has been a gas light post on the pedestal in the middle of the bridge in 19th century (right). The photos show that the bridge was badly weathered as we saw it but a couple of years later it was repaired and shines white again!

After lunch it was time to leave for Venice, this time via Autostrada, the total distance being ca. 70 km. We then stopped to have a snack at a gas station in Mestre, the inland part of Venice. It brought to my mind that a lifetime earlier at the age of 17, I came to Venice by train as an Interrail traveler. The train halted at a station, I saw the text ”Venice” on the wall and hopped off. I then gazed around and wondered by myself: Where is the water? I went and asked some officer if this really is Venice… He said this was Mestre and showed the plaque on the wall. And yes – there really stood the word ”Mestre” below ”Venice”. He said that if I wanted to go to the Venice with canals it would be the next station…

In the next blog we´ll tell you about Venice and its bridges. I hope the English in this blog was good enough for Roberta who´s worked as an English teacher…

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First 2 week trip, the beginning /Florence

On thursday morning 4.5.2006 we headed for Helsinki airport. AirBerlin plane was in the air 14:20 having a stopover in Berlin/Tegel. We had plenty of time there but – suddenly we were announced in the speakers and told to hurry to the boarding gate. So we did but as we got there there was a long queue which wasn´t moving anywhere. It actually turned out that our flight to Rome was a bit late… It´s a mystery why we were announced – must have been a mistake. Anyway, we landed successfully on Rome Fiumicino 20:05. It was hottish as the Info point woman also said with sweat drops on her forehead: “Caldo!” We managed to find Europcar office on the 3rd floor, did some paperwork and paid the guarantee with Visa Card. Then we had to push our luggage trolleys to the next floor in another wing of the airport – to have the car which turned out to be a Lancia Musa. Off we went, then. At that time we didn´t have a navigator – they were a novelty and not cheap either. Don´t know if it would have been any better with one but now only with a paper  map we drove past the right exit and had to drive back to the airport and try again. And – again we missed it. It was already dark which didn´t help. We ended up near the centre of Rome beside a park and asked for help. We were supposed to sleep the night in a Mobil Home at Seven Hills Holiday Village in Via Flaminia (the old Roman highway to north). After a couple of attempts we got help from a guy who offered to drive before us some kilometres to guide us to a point where we could go on by ourselves. He didn´t want any other reward but that we´ll  send him a postcard when we get home. Which we also did.

The gate of our holiday village was already closed as we reached it. We phoned to the given number  and we´re told to drive some hundreds of meters to another gate. There we found that the “Supermerket” (more like a big kiosk) was not open anymore  contrary to the promises on Internet. The gatekeeper saved us from starving by fetching us a bottle of table wine, some bread and prosciutto from the kitchen for 20 euros.         Our “Mobile Home De Luxe” was not very luxorious but gave us the sleeping place for night. Without heating it was quite cold first but soon we had it warmer. In the morning of 5.5. the sun was shining and respectively life smiling again. Still a bit tired from previous day we took a little walk watching the beautiful plantings and pelicans making their funny sounds in the garden, had a simple breakfast and started to Florence 285 km north.

You may ask why we didn´t take photos of any bridges in Rome. There would have been for example the Bridge of the Angels/ Ponte Sant´Angelo with its many statues. Well that was something we had to leave out of our schedule (see the About section of this blog), wise or not. We decided to visit Rome later some year…

Partly frightened by the last evening´s misnavigations in the motorway we took a nice but (as we later noticed) slow route. We stopped to shoot some photos of the first nice bridge on our journey ca. 40 km from Rome, 20 km before Viterbo, in a small  commune called Sutri. This simple wooden truss bridge is rather small and newish but you don´t see much of this type nowadays. It is also very similar to a somewhat bigger, now bygone bridge in our home town of that time which we had seen in an old picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bridge was almost at the foot of Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta:

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Sutri is an ancient town with Etruscan and Roman history.

As we reached Florence we had to hurry a bit to be able to even try to arrive at a reason-able time in Cesena where we were supposed to overnight. We managed to find a street-side parking place by the Piazza di Porta Romana and started walking towards the famous Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) half a kilometer away. Before seeing it we had to bite some panninis and find a toilet. It was weekend and there were a couple of other people admiring the tourist attractions, too…      On the narrow allies one had to look out for cars and motorbikes, too. But that was before mayor Matteo Renzi declared the historical World Heritage center a car free zone in October 2009.  Before the decision thousands of buses rumbled past Duomo at a distance of some meters thus shaking its marble walls and the famous dome planned and executed by Filippo Brunelleschi 1420-36.

Here you see the south end of Corridoio Vasari, Vasari Corridor. It´s an elevated passage-way built in 1565 ordered by the most famous of the Medici dukes, Cosimo I to the design of Giorgio Vasari, architect and art historian. The corridor goes from Palazzo Pitti  over Ponte Vecchio (the Old Bridge) to turn on the right after the bridge and going on along the riverside to Palazzo Vecchio. Ponte Vecchio starts immediately after the tower in the photo, Torre Mannelli. It is the only survivor of the original four towers defending the bridge in all its corners. The Mannelli family refused to let the tower be altered or demolished because of the Corridoio and so the Vasari Corridor had to be narrowed and swerved around  the tower on brackets – which makes a very fine addition to the whole! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Vasari Corridor is today the home of the self portrait collection of the nearby Uffizi Gallery, one of the most visited art galleries in the world. Originally it was a way for the nobility to be able to walk between their palaces safely without being seen by the common people down on the bridge. It also gave them some distance from the noisy and stinky business of the butchers, fishmongers and tanners – which were at last driven away 1593 by the order of Ferdinando dé Medici. Since that only goldsmiths and jewelers (and today also art dealers and souvenier shops) were allowed to live and work in the shops, 44 altogether, that give the bridge its unique facade. The protruding backshops were built in 17th century when the shops turned from public to private property. There had been craftsmen´s workshops already on the previous bridge. The colourful backshops gave the final touch the bridge built ca.  250 years earlier.

The panorama windows of  Vasari Corridor in the middle of the bridge were assembled in 1939 ordered by Mussolini before the meeting with Hitler behind the windows. Hitler, known as an art lover, is told to have been so impressed of the view and the bridge that he commanded Ponte Vecchio to be saved of exploding in 1944 as German troups withdrew before the Allied, as the only bridge of the four crossing river Arno. Anyway the official honour of that is given to Gerhard Wolff, German consul in Florence.

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Ponte Vecchio was built in the narrowest point of Arno where there has been a ford*. It´s total length is 95,05 m and width 18,7 m (at the shop overhangs 32 m at most) * Mark Twain, spoiled by the greatness of Mississippi, once wrote: “It is popular to admire the Arno. It is a great historical creek with four feet in the channel and some scows floating around. It would be a very plausible river if they would pump some water into it. They all call it a river, and they honestly think it is a river, do these dark and bloody Florentines. They even help out the delusion by building bridges over it. I do not see why they are too good to wade.”

There has probably been a bridge already in Roman times  here where Via Cassia cross-ed the river. The first written mention is from year 996. That bridge had cut-waters of stone and a wooden superstucture. It was destroyed by a flood in 1117 and replaced by a stone bridge with 5 openings. But again – it was damaged in floods of 1222 and 1322 – and swept away in 1333 save two of the central piers.   Before starting the building process of today´s bridge the city let build high walls along the riverbed to protect the lower parts of the area to be damaged in later floodings. When the walls were finished they could begin to build the bridge which took 10 years ending 1345.

There´s some mysticism about who was in charge of the design of the bridge. A long time it was believed to be Taddeo Gaddi (1290-1366), assistant of painter and architect Giotto and after Giotto the foremost artist in the city. Giorgio Vasari recorded Gaddi as the designer – about 200 years after the completion of the bridge…  but Giovanni Villani, florentian banker and chronicler (c.1280-1348) attested in his Nuova Cronica that Gaddi only worked as the supervisor of masonry and assistant of Neri di Fioravante who was the real master of the bridge project. There aren´t too many mentions about di Fioravante in history. Still, we know surely that born in Pistoia, 30 km northwest of Florence, as son to Fioravanti di Fioravante, he was active in Florence as an appreciated architect and mason 1340-84 (or 1374). One of his major works was the converting of a former grain market hall to Church of Orsanmichele which he did co-operating with two colleagues, Francesco Talenti and Benci di Cione. Giorgio Vasari also attributed to him the enlargement of Bargello Palace, begun in 1340.  He´s known also to have made a proposition to the design of the Duomo and a study for its cupola, 1367.  Pistoia itself is a city of several masterpieces of roman and renaissance architecture so it was a good place for an architect to grow up and draw influences. We don´t know anything about his activities in his hometown but – perhaps he was attending as apprentice the building work of the Fortress of St. Barnabas which the city state of Florence had built in Pistoia, being finished 1331. With that experience he may well have moved with Florentian builders to Florence to start a career as a professional there.

Ponte Vecchio is worldfamous for its pictoresque look but it´s not commonly known that it was also technically advanced in its time. It was the first bridge in Europe with low segmental arches – an outstanding engineering achievement of the European Middle Ages. It has three arches, the middle one being somewhat longer – 30 m – than the others. Requiring fewer piers in the stream than the Roman semicircular-arch design applied so far, the segmental arch offered less obstruction to navigation and freer passage to flood-waters. The span-to-rise ratio of Ponte Vecchio is about 6,5:1 as the ratio is 2:1 in a semicircular arch – a considerable difference.      The Chinese bridge master Li Chun had reached quite near already 750 years earlier with his famous An-Ji Bridge: 5,3:1. But then the Chinese bridge engineering was also generally hundreds of years ahead of the West-ern one.    The advantages of the shallow segmental arch were quickly understood in the regions nearby. The first successor, Ponte di Castelvecchio with its longest span being 48,7 m was built already 1354-56 in Verona by Guglielmo Bevilacqua.

A small amendment inspired by The Happy Pontist´s (blogger himself, too) comment: also the Romans occasionally built segment arch bridges although they weren´t as shallow as Ponte Vecchio´s. He mentioned Puente de Alconétar in Spain, built already in early 2nd century, span-to-rise 4-5:1,and Kildwick Bridge, North Yorkshire, built 1305-13. The latter´s ratio seems to be ca. 3:1 (my estimation based on a photo in the net).

The word bankrupt is told to have its origins here in Florence but they may as well be somewhere else in Italy, e.g. the republic of Genoa: The word bankruptcy is derived from banca rotta, meaning “broken bench (bank)”. In medieval Italy, money lenders worked from tables, or benches. They sat on these specially designed furniture pieces waiting for customers. In latin the word “banca” means bench.  When a money dealer ran out of money, his table (or bench) was broken (rotta) – literally with sword or just as a figure of speech, and he could no longer deal money. This word is first mentioned in 1533. It had its French equivalent, banqueroute, and then made its way into the English language in the mid 1500s.

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The Vasari´s Corridor stretching along the other side of the bridge; it turns 90 degrees after reaching the north end of the bridge and goes on above the sidewalk by the street. The end of the corridor is seen on the background through the arched opening on mid-bridge.
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On the roof of a shop overlooking the little square at the centre of the bridge stands an ancient sundial, supported by a small marble pillar. The sundial, looking south, is composed of a marble dial divided by thin columns indicating the hours. The gnomon projects its shadow onto the cup, marking the time.    In the middle you can see one of the many Africans selling their pirate products everywhere in the tourist attractions of Europe – and grabbing their sheet and things together in the speed of  light as they see a glimpse of  police…

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In the middle of the bridge there´s also a statue of one of the Renaissance geniouses of Florence, Benvenuto Cellini: goldsmith, sculptor, artist and musician. The statue was made by Raffaele Romanelli to celebrate the 400th birthday of Cellini in 1900. The railings surrounding him looked like this during our visit but the fashion with lovelocks has later stranded also here: after some years the railings were full of them. The city authorities have removed them and fines people attaching padlocks there (50 €).

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View from Ponte Vecchio to the modernish 5 arch bridge Ponte alle Grazie, built 1953 to replace previous bridge from 1345 which had a pair of small houses placed on each of its 6 pylons. On the left: the end part of Vasari´s Corridor seen earlier on the background, and Uffizi, with its main entrance in the middle
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…and again: the utmost end of Corridoio Vasariano above the street, penetrating into the Galleria d´Uffizi (on the right the colonnade of Corridoio alongside the riverbank)
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…and, for the last time, the colonnade under Corroio Vasariano by the street, this time seen to the direction of Ponte Vecchio which would be on the left if you saw it through the colonnade
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Ponte Vecchio from the “back side” with Torre Mannelli to be seen left on the background
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A view of the adjacent bridge, Ponte Santa Trinità through a shop on Ponte Vecchio. If you look carefully you see also the shopkeeper in the mirror…

There had been a wooden bridge on the place of Ponte Santa Trinità already 1252. When its predecessor had been taken by the flood 1557, grand duke Cosimo I gave the project for the new structure to Bartolomeo Ammannati, one of the universal geniouses of Renaissance (like Leonardo da Vinci he acted as artist, architect and engineer). The construction work was executed 1567-71.   It is believed that also the great Michelangelo contributed strongly to the design but he died 1564 and thus Ammannati had to complete the plans. He had first difficulties to get the authorities to accept this brave design. The arches were namely even shallower than in P. Vecchio: the span-to-rise ratio was 7:1 as the customary value was 3:1 those days. Like with Ponte Vecchio, in his design the middle span, 32 m, is 3 m wider than the two others, mainly for the looks but also to allow easier navigation in the river. He applied for the first time in the world the so called basket arch (or: elliptical arch) which had come up in the writings of contemporary theorists of architecture. The name comes from the shape of the section of a basket placed upside down. In constructing this arch with changing radiuses Ammannati used six different center points altogether.  His works represent artistically a transition from Renaissance towards Baroque which is here seen e.g. in the pompous plaques in the arch tops.

The pylons of the bridge are shaped like a ship’s bow, a shape that lessens the impact of tree trunks swept along by floods. Florentian residents seem to have found the “ship decks” are optimal places to lounge and enjoy the riverscape in sunshine…

The retreating German army destroyed the bridge in 1944. It was rebuilt 1955-58 by architect Riccardo Gizdulich and engineer Emilio Brizzi following faithfully the original designs of Ammannati; it took a lot of pondering especially to get the arches done right. Even the original stones were dredged from the river. The four decorative statues, which had been positioned on each corner of the bridge, were also recovered from the Arno but were all badly damaged. The statues represented the four seasons.They were original commissioned to mark the marriage between Cosimo II and Maria Magdalena of Austria in 1608.

The statues in the north end of the bridge: Summer (left) and Spring

And then it was time to walk back to the car and leave Florence…      but here´s our last glimpse from the steps of San Miniato al Monte towards the historical centre: the tower top of Palazzo Vecchio against the evening sky   (in front of this palace there stands the famous statue of David – or a copy of it – the valuable original is to be seen in Accademia di belle arti di Firenze):P1010989

First blog post

DSC_9378 – kopioTHE BEGINNING of our Bridge JourneyOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We, Esko and Lea, got married a long time ago on previous millennium. At one point, without each other knowing we both began to think it would be nice to begin to take photos of interesting bridges as a hobby. It didn´t come true until 2006 when we already had had photo exhibitions from our other theme: Memories from a Lost World (traces of agricultural building tradition). Lea´s first memorable bridge experience as a child was Aunessilta stone arch bridge in Teisko, Finland (photos above and below). She remembers how her father liked to drive this steepish bridge so fast that his wife and daughter had to hold their bellies when the car jumped quite a bit on the top of the arch…

The bridge was built 1899 and it is the biggest stone arch bridge in Finland with its 19 m span and 46,5 m total length. There are much longer granite cladded bridges in our country but their structural core is of concrete. Aunes Bridge grew by the time too narrow for modern traffic and was supposed to be demolished after the new concrete arch bridge was opened 1983 nearby. Luckily however, the protesters won and nowadays it serves pedestrians as a museum bridge.The stones are dry laid except some misshaped stones which were placed with mortar filling. The project turned out much more challenging than the contractor, mason Frans Malmlund, had thought and he went bankrupt when the work was only half done. The bridge, planned by arch. Georg Schreck, 37 years old as he got the planning task in 1896, had to be finished by the commune. By the way do you know where the word bankrupt comes from? If you don´t  – and want to know – we´ll tell it when we reach Italy and Firenze – or Florence – on our journey. And that´ll be already in the second blog…  DSC_9381 – kopio

Teisko is nowadays a part of Tampere which is the 3rd biggest city in Finland.

According to unverified information the name of the bridge derives from an unhappy incident: a young woman,  Aune drowned in about the same place and at about the same time as the bridge was built. So the name has maybe originally been Aune´s Bridge (Aunensilta).