We have seen many beautiful bridges in our travels around the world. This Spring we visited Australia and I took more than 200 photos of the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Last year we saw a couple of magnificent bridges in Portugal, one of them looking just like our very own Golden Gate Bridge. Last week I walked along San Francisco’s Embarcadero from the Ferry Building to AT&T Park to see a Giants game and walked right under another construction marvel, The San Francisco Bay Bridge. We have also seen the many super structures that span the East River in New York City as well as more delicate ones that cross the Liffey in Dublin. And we both walked over and ferried under the Rialto Bridge in Venice several times. Yes, each of these is beautiful in its own way. But which one is the most romantic?
A couple of years ago we visited Florence, one of the most romantic cities in all of Europe. And there are many bridges in Florence that span the Arno River, the most famous being the charming Ponte Vecchio with its old houses and jewelry shops. But we like the bridge that is just down river from Ponte Vecchio, another old bridge that is very simple yet striking in its design: the Ponte Santa Trinita (or Holy Trinity Bridge).
Cosimo I de Medici commissioned the building of this bridge in the 16th century and there is a story that Michelangelo had a hand in designing its famous elliptical arches. Cosimo built the bridge to connect Via Tornabuoni in central Florence with Via Maggio in the Oltrarno where many of the Medici family palaces were located.
In honor of Cosimo’s grandson Cosimo II’s wedding in 1608, statues of the Four Seasons were added to guard each of the four corners of the bridge.
The German Army destroyed the bridge in 1944 but the citizens of Florence in the 1950s decided to rebuild the bridge as an exact replica, using as much as possible the same stones that were embedded in the original bridge. Other stones came from the same quarry as the original stones. They even found all of the pieces of the four statues in the Arno and they put them back together again — all except the head of Spring which wasn’t found until three years after the bridge opened in 1958. But now the head is in place, too.
A number of years ago a future son-in-law got down on one knee in the middle of Ponte Santa Trinita and proposed to our youngest daughter. They now live just a few miles away from us with their two beautiful daughters.
So why is this bridge the most romantic in the whole world? Just ask my daughter.