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Sunday, January 21, 2018

Florence, along the Arno River

Dante in his poem about Arno river says:

And I: "Through midst of Tuscany there wanders
A streamlet that is born in Falterona,
And not a hundred miles of course suffice it;
From thereupon do I this body bring."

The Arno is a river in the Tuscany region of Italy.  It is the most important river of central Italy after the Tiber. With a length of 241 kilometres, it flows from the Apennine Mountains to the Ligurian Sea, just 11 kilometres west of Pisa. Lush vineyards and olive groves line the river's scenic course to the west, out to sea.
The Arno river generally flows at its highest during spring and autumn of every year, when rainfall in the Apennines is at its greatest. However in 1557 and 1966  the peaceful river overflowed from its embankments invading large areas of the Casentino, the plains of Pisa and Empoli, and over the entire historical center of Florence, causing dozens of deaths and untold damage to the city’s monumental and artistic heritage.
After the flood in Florence the river’s banks were raised, and in 1984 the Bilancino Dam was built near Florence to protect the area from future flooding.
The Arno River crosses Florence, and passes below the Ponte Vecchio,  the Ponte alle Grazie and the Santa Trinita bridge.
The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge"),  is a medieval stone arch bridge over the Arno River, still have shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. It has always hosted shops and merchants who displayed their goods on tables before their premises. The back shops (retrobotteghe) that can be seen from the river, were added in the seventeenth century.
In 1900, to honour and mark the fourth century of the birth of the great Florentine sculptor and master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini, the leading goldsmiths of the bridge commissioned the most renowned Florentine sculptor of the time Raffaello Romanelli to create a bronze bust of Cellini to stand atop a fountain in the middle of the Eastern side of the bridge, where it stands to this day.
A few steps from the Ponte Vecchio, stands the church of Santo Stefano, one of the oldest churches of Florence. The lower part of the facade retains Romanesque elements, while the upper part was rebuilt during the Gothic renewal. The interior was renovated during the Baroque period. It is full of stunning works of art and decoration, including the beautiful staircase by Buontalenti, with a marble balustrade, built in 1574. Numerous paintings also remain from the Renaissance period.
Santo Stefano is now deconsecrated church, and is now used as auditorium for music performances. The church’s atmosphere becomes incredibly magic in the night, when the lights turn down and the music fills the religious silence, and the audience immerse itself in the unforgettable experience of the union of Art, Architecture and Music.

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