Sunday, January 15, 2006

Rule 15

Hide Your Euros

The Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence. The others were blown to bits in World War II to prevent the Allies from getting across the Arno and getting in line ahead of the Germans for tickets to the Ufizzi. Unlike most bridges in the world, this bridge is not about connecting two points, this bridge is a destination unto itself…or so several hundred thousand tourists are led to believe daily. “Ponte Vecchio” literally means old bridge, named so because in the time it takes to travel through the throngs from one end to the other you may discover that you have become a grandparent. I was skeptical about this thing from the moment I saw it filled with people. I have a general rule of thumb that has served me well, never hang around a place where lots of people mill around listlessly like stadium rock concerts and jail. I mean, this is a bridge and an old bridge at that (old as in 1345, not old as in 1945), and if you think it is a good idea to tread over something that old and creaky along with tons (and I mean, literally, tons) of other folks, that’s your business. High on my business agenda is staying alive to have at least one more capucinno and pasta dolce.

If you want to make sure that you will not be missing anything by staying on the shore, the following fact-finding report is provided here as a public service so that you do not have to go yourself. This is what you will see if you walk across the Ponte Vecchio:

1. Lots of jewelry, most of it real gold, in the store windows that line the bridge.

2. Lots of jewelry most of it not real gold inserted into fleshy mounds of teenage flesh.

3. Guys taking pictures of their girlfriends.

4. Girls taking pictures of guys they wish were their boyfriends.

5. Guys taking pictures of famous Europeans that happen to be printed on the Euros in what used to be your wallet.

6. Jewelry store owners rubbing their hands together and panting slightly.

Review that list. Did I say anything about the spectacular view from the bridge? No? Hmm…could that be because is no spectacular view from this bridge?! A bridge with no view! Wow! Gotta see that, Marge! Actually there is a small opening at the peak between the shops that line the bridge but it is generally filled to the max with pickpockets smoking, trading quips, and counting out their nice, fresh Euros. The view itself is obscured by a statue that itself is obscured by the kajillion bicycle locks…hmm… maybe it’s not a sculpture? I don’t know what they hell it is. All I know is that people are taking pictures of the fence around it ‘cause it is covered with bicycle locks. And just where did those bicycle locks come from, anyway? From all the bicycles that were stolen to procure the locks. It is a folk art monument to petty crime and you can have your picture taken in front of it with somebody else’s boyfriend while somebody else’s girlfriend picks your pocket and the guy in the jewelry store window rubs his hands together.

The Medicis had a private hallway built above the bridge connecting various bits of Medici real estate. Back in the day, the Medici family ran this town and if they had to get from one side of the Arno to the other they sure as hell were not going to walk among the riff-raff and they already had all the gold jewelry anyone could want as well as all the boyfriends and girlfriends. And really, when you are that rich and powerful you do not care about having your picture taken next to a fence covered with bicycle locks (although there is a portrait in the Uffizi painted by Leonardo of Lorenzo de Medici the Moronic smiling like a dope next to the fence with a pair of bolt cutters in his hands). This elevated hallway, the so-called Vasari Corridor, is lined with paintings of self-portraits by such artists as Rembrandt, Rubens and Hogarth. As far as I know, to this day you must be somehow related to a Medici to gain access. There is also a rumor of a secret Medici tunnel running underneath the Ponte Vecchio lined with paintings on velvet of sad clowns. Adolph Hitler, an amateur painter, was known to have revered the sad-clown-on-velvet genre and this is the true reason why the bridge was not bombed by the Nazis.


Smartypants said...

That is a truly hysterical blog entry, Paul! HAHAHA!! But as someone who has had my picture taken in front of the World's Largest Steam Shovel and in front of the Kansas City Hyatt (site of the tea-dance floating walkway disaster), I have to ask: What exactly is your problem with photo ops at the Ponte Vecchio bike-lock folk art sculpture?

I am almost willing to believe your claim that there exists the painting of Medici the Moronic holding bolt cutters. It reminded me of a highlight of my trip to Tuscany two years ago:

I was in San Gimignano with my friend Elise, who knew nearly every bible story told in every fresco in every church in Italy.

In the Chiesa di Sant'Agostino in San Gimignano, Saint Augustine is recognizable in all the panels on which his major life events are depicted, as he is always shown wearing a hat that looks just like the one worn by Jughead in the old Archie comics. When we arrived there, Elise was wearing new shoes she had purchased the day before in Siena, and in between her fresco translations, she was stopping passersby to demand compliments on the fabulousness of her new footwear.

Elise went around the chapel saying, "And this is St Augustine's baptism... and here he is disembarking his ship at Ostia... and here he is blessing the faithful at Hippo..." But then there was a fresco showing St Auggie in a marketplace and another man bent down and fussing at his feet. "I am not sure what this is," said Elise.

"It looks to me," I said, "like he's trying on shoes. I see now why you wanted to come here."

Well, in the little gift shop adjoining the chapel there is a small rack with postcards of the frescoes, and there was one of the fresco in question. On the back it gave the simple title, "Sant'Agostino a Milano."

I was right! It was the very first recorded case of someone going to Milan to find the latest in fashionable footwear, circa 1465.

That reminds me: you must be impressed by the frescoes everywhere -- while graphic novels may have gotten their start in the caves of southern France, you really do owe the mass popularity of your craft to the comic book wall painters of the Italian Renaissance!

ausonia said...

the all locks are promises of love.
if you look better on any lock there are two names such as paolo+francesca, for example, and a date... 12-05-2005...
young lovers leave a lock on the ponte vecchio just because they think is a lucky place. bicycles? no, it's something romantic... paul. in few months all the locks will be to take away to get space for other promises... is a cycle... not a bicycle:)
obviously it's stupid act... is not like bombing iraq.


Rick Lee said...
Join me and my circle of friends at,
an online social networking community that connects
people from all over the world.

Meet new people, share photos, create or attend
events, post free classifieds, send free e-cards,
listen music, read blogs, upload videos, be part of a
club, chat rooms, forum and much more!

See you around! Bring all your friends too!

Anonymous said...

Hi Nice Blog .The independent Jewelry Review store can't offer the same size product selection because they don't have the finances. The chain stores have better real estate, better product selection, and more money for advertising.