Ponte Vecchio spans the River Arno in Florence, Source: Unsplash

First time ever: Florence’s Ponte Vecchio to undergo restoration

First time ever: Florence’s Ponte Vecchio to undergo restoration

Did you know it was the only bridge in the city which survived World War II?

Ponte Vecchio means Old Bridge, and as one of Florence’s most famous landmarks, it fully deserves its name, with 677 years of history behind it (though historians say there used to be a bridge in that spot already in Ancient Roman times). But in order to keep this heritage site pristine for future generations, the city’s mayor Dario Nardella has announced that the bridge will undergo a comprehensive restoration – for the first time in its history.

The municipal authorities will spend some 2 million euros on the project in order to counteract the wear and tear of time and nature. That doesn’t mean that Ponte Vecchio is under any imminent threat, the plan is to preventively beef up its support structure and make use of new materials and technologies to lengthen its life.

A bridge with a colourful history

The current iteration of the famous bridge dates back to 1345, though its authorship is a bit of a mystery. It was first designed with defensive purposes before becoming basically a market street spanning the River Arno. The bridge thus hosted many shops – initially butchers and fishmongers, and later silversmiths and jewellers.

Despite the turbulent history of Florence, the biggest challenge to Ponte Vechhio’s existence came in the 20th century, and it wasn’t during the Second World War (it was actually the only bridge spared by the retreating German army).

It was a flood in 1966 that managed to give a heavy beating to the structure and thus turn into the biggest threat to its existence. Back then some minor works were done to prop up the pillars of the bridge, but this time it is meant to be much more comprehensive.

A floating platform has been set up with the scaffolding required to carry out the necessary pre-restoration surveys, install a year-long monitoring system and take samples of the materials. The jetty is expected to remain in place for about three weeks, moving from one span to the next while being secured by two concrete cubes next to the left bank and four 70-kilogram anchors.

The restoration will focus specifically on removing weeds before consolidating the damaged stones and reconstructing any missing parts. Special attention will be paid to the coats of arms and mouldings as well as the wooden piles that support the jewellery stores on the bridge. To finish, the surface stones on the bridge will be secured in place and given a protective coat of sealant to prevent the rain from seeping into the structure.   

As Florence’s mayor Dario Nardella put it: “If we protect our cultural heritage, we protect our identity and invest in the future of our generations”.



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