The great palace at the Trinita end of this stretch of yellow buildings—the Frescobaldi—must have been very striking when the loggia was open: the three rows of double arches that are now walled in. From this point, as well as from similar points on the other side of the Ponte Vecchio, one realizes the mischief done by Cosimo I’s secret passage across it; for not only does the passage impose a straight line on a bridge that was never intended to have one, but it cuts Florence in two. If it were not for its large central arches one would, from the other bridges or the embankment, see nothing whatever of the further side of the city; but as it is, through these arches one has heavenly vignettes.
We leave the river again for a few minutes about fifty yards along the Lungarno Acciaioli beyond the Trinita and turn up a narrow passage to see the little church of SS. Apostoli, where there is a delightful gay ciborium, all bright colours and happiness, attributed to Andrea della Robbia, with pretty cherubs and pretty angels, and a benignant Christ and flowers and fruit which cannot but chase away gloom and dubiety. Here also is a fine tomb by the sculptor of the elaborate chimney-piece which we saw in the Bargello, Benedetto da Rovezzano, who also designed the church’s very beautiful door. Whether or not it is true that SS. Apostoli was built by Charlemagne, it is certainly very old and architecturally of great interest. Vasari says that Brunelleschi acquired from it his inspiration for S. Lorenzo and S. Spirito. To many Florentines its principal importance is its custody of the Pazzi flints for the igniting of the sacred fire which in turn ignites the famous Carro.
Returning again to the embankment, we are quickly at the Ponte Vecchio, where it is pleasant at all times to loiter and observe both the river and the people; while from its central arches one sees the mountains. From no point are the hill of S. Miniato and its stately cypresses more beautiful; but one cannot see the church itself—only the church of S. Niccolo below it, and of course the bronze “David”. In dry weather the Arno is green; in rainy weather yellow. It is so sensitive that one can almost see it respond to the most distant shower; but directly the rain falls and it is fed by a thousand Apennine torrents it foams past this bridge in fury. The Ponte Vecchio was the work, upon a Roman foundation, of Taddeo Gaddi, Giotto’s godson, in the middle of the fourteenth century, but the shops are, of course, more recent. The passage between the Pitti and Uffizi was added in 1564. Gaddi, who was a fresco painter first and architect afterwards, was employed because Giotto was absent in Milan, Giotto being the first thought of every one in difficulties at that time. The need, however, was pressing, for a flood in 1333 had destroyed a large part of the Roman bridge. Gaddi builded so well that when, two hundred and more years later, another flood severely damaged three other bridges, the Ponte Vecchio was unharmed. None the less it is not Gaddi’s bust but Cellini’s that has the post of honour in the centre; but this is, of course, because Cellini was a goldsmith, and it is to goldsmiths that the shops belong. Once it was the butchers’ quarter!