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Florence’s Bridge of Gold: Ponte Vecchio

They say that gold is a safe investment because its value rarely depreciates. In Florence, the stability of gold manifests in a different form: the Ponte Vecchio. Forever fascinating, the neighborhoods on either side of the Ponte Vecchio [Old Bridge] are highly sought-after locations for our Italy Perfect vacation rental apartments.

jewelry-ponte-vecchio-ennisWhile modern travelers know the bridge for its illustrious jewelry shops, its history will make it even more interesting. Beneath the glitz of gold chains is a bridge that has stood the test of time. It is the location, not the wares themselves, that make this place so special. A gold necklace can be purchased almost anywhere, but gold purchased on the Ponte Vecchio is not just gold. It is an experience.

The Ponte Vecchio – literally the “Old Bridge” – has been a fixture of Florence’s ancient streets since the 13th century. When it was built it served as the first bridge across the Arno, and since then has endured hundreds of years and numerous wars. After World War II it was once again the only bridge in Florence.

While the bridge’s history is long, it was not always so glamorous. It once housed shops of numerous varieties (not just the jewelers it is known for today) and the atmosphere would have been unrecognizable. Butchers dumped their waste into the river, making the bridge a place to run errands and otherwise avoid entirely. That changed when the Medici family – famous for their patronage of the arts that made Florence a center of the Renaissance – moved in across the river and began to use the bridge frequently when getting around the city. It was the Medici’s who converted the bridge into a place for jewelers and gold
salesmen.

Ponte VecchioThe Medici’s are gone but the bridge remains illustrious as ever. Shopkeepers pride themselves on the quality of their wares – the purity standards for gold jewelry in Italy are some of the highest in the world: 18K. In the U.S. 10K is considered acceptable for jewelry to be labeled “gold,” shocking to an Italian jeweler.  This also means that any bargains are suspect.

Some good advice: know the market price of gold when shopping. Some jewelers will price their wares by weight so you can understand the additional value they place on the craft of the goldsmith.

Shoppers who like to preview a store’s wares before thitaly_ponte_vecchio_by_yuan_hsueheir trips may be disappointed to discover that most of the shops on the Ponte Vecchio do not have websites. That said, the only way to purchase their jewelry is to go to the shops themselves, making the opportunity even more unique and memorable. Taking the time to browse is worth it for that reason alone: the item that catches a shopper’s eye very likely cannot be purchased anywhere else in the world.

Want to stay within a stone’s throw of the Ponte Vecchio? We have a wonderful variety of apartments nearby! Some favorites Italy Perfect vacation rentals are Casetta Bonsi, Bardi, Memoria, Caravella, Vela and Amore.

Photo credit; Creative Commons License: Michael Costa, Justin Ennis

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Florence: A Tale of Two (Extra) Davids

Why has a single statue managed to capture the minds of millions, held gazes enraptured, 391px-Shadow_David_Michelangelostruck awe in the hearts of admirers? Maybe it is the story: David, the original underdog manifested in marble. The mind’s eye fills in the gaps:

  • The giant Goliath.
  • The sling shot.
  • Desperation because no “real” warriors have stepped forward, only this young shepherd (unless the modern theories are to be counted as true, but that is hardly as romantic.)

Or is it the art of the master: the curls of hair, the casual stance, the severity of his stare –all demonstrating the skill of the craftsman as he closes the gap between stone and reality? Is there a glimmer of concern in his expression? Perhaps, but only just enough to create a sense of camaraderie with the viewer.

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Roman Colosseum Essential Info

The center of Rome is teeming with life. Tourists course through the streets in rapid motion, creating a constant influx of energy keeping an ancient city alive and vibrant. It is therefore no small irony that the Colosseum, the most well known icon of Rome in the heart of the city, has a long history of mortal sports.Colosseum3_11-7-2003

Commissioned by Emperor Vespasian and opened in 80 A.D., the Colosseum is mesmerizing in its size and grandeur. While much of the original façade has fallen to ruin, the remains pique the imagination – invoking visions of glory. The amphitheater was in active use for four centuries and hosted a menagerie of events – gladiator competitions of course, but also animal hunts and even public executions. Thus while the enormity of the Colosseum gives a sense of grandeur, the wise visitor knows they are standing in a place that generated far fewer victors than victims.

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Bucatini all’Amatriciana, Tribute to the town of Amatrice

The tragedy of the last week’s earthquake in Italy will not soon be forgotten. The small town of Amatrice was one of the most impacted. While the scars of the devastation, loss of lives and injuries will long remain, there is pride in a global restaurant movement to celebrate the heritage of Amatrice, the namesake of one of Italy’s best comfort foods, Bucatini all’ Amatriciana, while raising money to donate for the victims through the celebration and enjoyment of this delicious pasta dish.

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Granita al Caffe con Panna

Cool Coffee – Granita al Caffè

Decades before Starbucks and imitators launched cold coffee and frappuccino beverages, Italians have been enjoying  cool and refreshing granita al caffè, the great-granddaddy of cold coffee drinks.

A cross between a slushy and sorbet, granita al caffe originated in Sicily. It is made from lightly sweetened espresso that is frozen and then crushed, prepared like a sorbet. Enjoy it with a generous dollop of “panna”,  whipped cream. In Italy, whipped cream is typically unsweetened; it is a nice counterpoint to the sweet espresso.

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