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As soon as we go through the three-part arcade at the end of the Uffizi Gallery, we are right on the edge of the Arno River, and a quick glance to our right (northwest) reveals the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence, designed in 1345 by Taddeo Gaddi. The bridge is beautifully composed, and forms a flowing backdrop to the riverbanks. The shops lining the bridge were originally composed of goldsmith / jewelry makers and sellers. Typical tourist wares are, for better or worse, dominant today.

The shopkeepers, following tradition, lived above their shops, and cantilevered their quarters out over the river when necessary, which just adds to the picturesque nature of the scene - sort of "architecture without architects." I do not advocate working without architects, or I would be out of business, but so often common sense can produce wondrous things. Perhaps a moral to all of this is to look for architects who possess creativity combined with common sense.

Strolling along the Arno, sampling local gelati, prior to getting to the bridge itself.

After strolling back and forth just before entering the bridge, we come to the bridge itself! That's what makes almost all European cities so pleasant; there is always something to eat and drink. This is totally unlike our North American malls, which feature "food courts," or as I like to call them "feeding troughs." If you're at all familiar with country farms, the animals are called to feed out of troughs, centrally located, and the expression "slopping the pigs" was born out of throwing garbage (slop) into those centrally located troughs for pigs to eat. So, what happens in a 20th and now 21st century mall? We must congregate in the central food court and all eat in one place. Perish the thought of hunger or thirst while at the opposite end of the mall. No food allowed there. Not even in the aisles of the mall. No, you must go to the food court! The resultant cacophony of the usually poor acoustics is most unpleasant. How much better to split up the crowds and the noise. Again, common sense would be required. Guess they just don't teach that in architectural or real estate development classes.

On the bridge ("Ponte" is Italian for bridge).

A composition such as this has not changed for hundreds of years. The serenity and beauty of the scene is almost beyond compare. Here below the opposite river bank.

Looking back over our shoulder, we can see the Cupola and part of the dome of the Cathedral of Florence, which we will get to in SESSION 9.

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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