Florence’s famed Ponte Vecchio to be restored to former glory with two-year makeover

In the seven centuries since the Ponte Vecchio was first built in Florence, Italy, the bridge has watched the city changing around it, surviving floods, fires and the Nazi invasion in World War II.

Now, the famed bridge itself is getting a two-year makeover, at the cost of about €2 million, to restore it to its former glory, the city of Florence and the Marchesi Antinorini winemakers announced on Wednesday.

It marks the first such restoration and cleaning of the bridge, though it has undergone regular maintenance and several renovations to ensure its stability, the city’s culture ministry added.

“This is a historic project because Ponte Vecchio has never had a restoration intervention of this technical complexity,” Florence’s mayor Dario Nardella told reporters on Thursday. “In the end we will have an even more beautiful bridge than we are used to seeing.

Widely considered one of the biggest achievements in European medieval engineering, the pedestrian bridge spans the Arno River with colorful buildings that house dozens of jewelry shops jutting out of its sides. An upper gallery connects the Uffizi Gallery with the Pitti Palace.

Such is the Ponte Vecchio’s significance that it was the only bridge across the Arno River spared by the retreating German army towards the end of World War II.

It was built in 1345. - TT/iStockphoto/Getty Images
It was built in 1345. - TT/iStockphoto/Getty Images

The upcoming restoration work will entail restoring and cleaning the whole bridge to eliminate algae, moss, liches and weeds growing there, as well any deposits left by chemicals in the river. Previous replacement joints will be upgraded, the stone itself will be strengthened and the footpath’s stone will be restored too.

Work on the upper section of the bridge will begin in October and November later this year, while work on the lower part of the bridge will take place in summer 2025 and 2026.

About half the funds required for the project are being donated by Marchesi Antinori, one of Italy’s best-known wine-making families.

“Our family history has always been inextricably linked to Florence since the 13th century,” the group’s president, Piero Antinori, told reporters Thursday. “The city has given us so much over the centuries, which is why it is a pleasure for us to be able to be part of this important project.”

Private donors contributing to the restoration of historic monuments has become increasingly common in Italy as the country’s budget for maintaining them has been drastically reduced.

In 2011, luxury leather goods company Tod’s pledged €25 million (then $32 million) toward the restoration of the Colosseum while Diesel agreed to restore the Rialto Bridge in Venice for €5 million (then $6.4 million) in May 2013.

Qin Xie contributed to this report.

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