When I close my eyes and dream of Florence there is one image that always comes to mind. It is the sight of the Ponte Vecchio at night, lit by the soft golden hues of street lamps as their mild light warms and illuminates the yellow, amber, and orange paint that covers Florence’s buildings like a thin layer of multi-hued skin. While there are a variety of different locations to enjoy the Ponte Vecchio from, my person favorite is the nearby Ponte alle Grazie, which, isn’t very pretty by itself but does provide an excellent view of the Ponte Vecchio.
What is the Ponte Vecchio and why is it so famous? The bridge essentially has three levels which makes it highly unusual. The first level is the basic stone bridge which was built in 1345 after previous incarnations bridging the Arno river were wiped out by raging floods. Situated on one of the narrowest points along the Arno river within the confines of central Florence, it has always served as an important thoroughfare. The second level of the bridge rests at street level and is comprised of a series of shops. Since the late 1500s when mixed merchants and a series of butchers were told to discontinue selling on the bridge, the space has been occupied by high end silver and gold merchants. This shift was, in part, due to the construction of the third level of the bridge, Vasari’s Corridor which was constructed in the mid 1500s. The corridor, which you can see with its evenly spaced small square windows, stretches from the Palazzo Pitti to the Palazzo Vecchio which now serves as Florence’s city hall. The corridor itself was built rather quickly by Cosimo I de’Medici as a security measure to allow him to move between structures without exposing himself to the risk and turmoil of public streets.
The result is a fascinating structure with a rich history and very unique personality. Heading to Florence? Enjoy the view for me!
Make sure to head over to flickr to see the rest of the album.
Where Did I Stay?
I had the pleasure of accepting an invitation from the Grand Hotel Minerva for an evening’s stay in their historic deluxe frescoed suite. The hotel describes itself as a 4-star superior boutique hotel and is situated on one of central Florence’s largest and most central squares. It sits kitty corner to the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella on the Piazza that draws from the same namesake.
I absolutely loved the location of this hotel. Not only is it centrally located less than 10 minutes walk from all of Florence’s key attractions, it has a calm luxurious elegance to it. The staff was friendly, social, and extremely professional. Facilities were beautifully maintained and most had either just been renovated or were in the final stages of renovation. While my room offered a wonderful view out over the Piazza, rooms located at the higher levels offer a rare glimpse of Florence’s main Duomo. The rooftop bar and pool also has one of the best views of the Duomo you’ll find in the area.
The opportunity to stay in the Frescoed Suite was an absolute treat. While the majority of the rooms in the hotel are extremely modern, this 65 square meter suite has a bedroom, bathroom, and large living-room. All furniture is carefully selected and historic while the ceilings are decorated with gorgeous 18th-century frescoes. It’s one thing to fall asleep in the heart of an ancient city which oozes romantic charm. It is another to fall asleep surrounded by gilded doors and beneath artwork that tugs you out of the present and playfully pulls you through history. The only part of the room I wasn’t enamored with completely was the bed which is also a historic piece of furniture. It was still comfortable, but I’d have traded authenticity for a more modern, big ol’ soft mattress that swallowed me up whole.
If you’re looking to mix your visit to Florence up with a more luxurious hotel stay, I can definitely recommend the Minerva and her staff. I’d also like to thank them for their hospitality and invitation to experience the hotel first hand.