ITALIAN PLACES

The small city of Senigallia on the north-east coast of Italy has its own ‘little mermaid’ statue. She is found at the end of the pier at Porto di Levante, Senigallia’s harbor. 

Senigallia was founded in the 4th century BC by the Gallic tribe of the ‘Senones’ and became the first Roman colony on the Adriatic shore. You can still get that ‘Roman Feel’ in the architecture in the old center.

The statue is known as Penelope of Senigallia, but is also popularly referred to as ‘the little mermaid of Senigallia’.  She is often compared to Copenhagen’s famous mermaid statue by Edvard Eriksen, representing The Little Mermaid in Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale.

Although Penelope is not really a mermaid, one could easily be forgiven for assuming that she is, apparently emerging from water at the end of the pier.

Just as The Little Mermaid is a symbol of Denmark and Copenhagen, Penelope has become a symbol of Senigallia.  The statue was created by Gianni Guerro and was inaugurated as his gift to the city on July 2004.  She represents Penelope (wife of Homer’s Odysseus), who longs for and waits for her husband’s return for 20 years.   By extension, the statue represents all women longing and waiting for their lover’s return.

Also, there are numerous chains with padlocks around Penelope, fastened here by couples in love – some of whom surely will come back here for their weddings.

 

The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge") is a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, art dealers and souvenir sellers. The Ponte Vecchio's two neighbouring bridges are the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte alle Grazie.

The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman times, when the via Cassia crossed the river at this point. The Roman piers were of stone, the superstructure of wood. The bridge first appears in a document of 996. After being destroyed by a flood in 1117 it was reconstructed in stone but swept away again in 1333 save two of its central piers, as noted by Giovanni Villani in his Nuova Cronica. It was rebuilt in 1345. Giorgio Vasari recorded the traditional view of his day that attributed its design to Taddeo Gaddi — besides Giotto one of the few artistic names of the trecento still recalled two hundred years later. Modern historians present Neri di Fioravanti as a possible candidate. Sheltered in a little loggia at the central opening of the bridge is a weathered dedication stone, which once read “Nel trentatrè dopo il mille-trecento, il ponte cadde, per diluvio dell'acque: poi dieci anni, come al Comun piacque, rifatto fu con questo adornamento”. The Torre dei Mannelli was built at the southeast corner of the bridge to defend it.

The bridge consists of three segmental arches: the main arch has a span of 30 meters (98 feet) the two side arches each span 27 meters (89 feet). The rise of the arches is between 3.5 and 4.4 meters (11½ to 14½ feet), and the span-to-rise ratio 5:1.

In order to connect the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence's town hall) with the Palazzo Pitti, in 1565 Cosimo I de' Medici had Giorgio Vasari build the Vasari Corridor above it. To enforce the prestige of the bridge, in 1593 the Medici Grand Dukes prohibited butchers from selling there; their place was immediately taken by several gold merchants. The corporative association of butchers had monopolised the shops on the bridge since 1442. A stone with an inscription from Dante (Paradiso xvi. 140-7) records the spot at the entrance to the bridge.

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.

Along the Ponte Vecchio, there can be seen many padlocks affixed in various places, especially to the railing around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini. This is a recent tradition for the Ponte Vecchio, although it has been practiced in Russia and in Asia before. It was perhaps introduced by the padlock shop owner at the end of the bridge. It is popularly connected to idea of love and lovers…

There is a similar ongoing padlock phenomenon at Ponte Milvio, due to one of Federico Moccia's books.

The bridge was severely damaged in the 1966 flood of the Arno.

 

The bridge is mentioned in the aria "O mio babbino caro" by Giacomo Puccini.

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