US Tourist Fined for Driving Across Florence’s Famed Medieval Bridge

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Once again, an American abroad has managed to astonish local authorities and appall the public by endangering the integrity of one of Italy’s national architectural treasures. This time, it was the centuries-old Ponte Vecchio, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which spans the narrowest section of the Arno River in the timeless city of Florence.

On Thursday morning, an unnamed U.S. tourist—identified only as a 34-year-old man from California—was fined €500 (over $540) for driving across the pedestrianized covered bridge in a rented car (incidentally, a white Fiat Panda). Part of the penalty was for driving without an international driver’s license according to a statement released by the City of Florence’s press office.

The offender told local law enforcement he was looking for a place to park and had not realized that he’d driven onto the famous Medieval-era footbridge.

The iconic Ponte Vecchio is a solid-spandrel segmental arch bridge that links the Pitti Palace (part of the Uffizi Gallery) to the Piazza Repubblica. It also contains the Vasari Corridor, an enclosed passageway built in 1564 upon the order of Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, which connects the Pitti Palace and the Palazzo Vecchio.

Construction on the Ponte Vecchio first began in the year 996 and was completed in 1345, though it has been destroyed by floods and rebuilt more than once in the several centuries since. Although, it was actually the only bridge in the city to survive bombings by Germany during World War II

On any given day, the bridge is typically bustling with pedestrian traffic, as people observe the ancient stonework and visit the shops that line the interior of the 98-foot-long, enclosed overpass.

CNN reported that the City of Florence has set aside €2 million (roughly $2.2 million) to fund an extensive renovation project to preserve the Ponte Vecchio for future generations of locals and visitors alike.

Il Duomo, lit up at dusk, in Florence, Italy. (photo courtesy of Collette)

Sadly, yesterday’s offense isn’t the first—and, surely, won’t be the last—time that foreign tourists have jeopardized Italy’s historic landmarks, monuments and cultural sites.

The mishap calls to mind last year’s incident, when American tourists rode electric scooters down Rome’s famous Spanish Steps, a monument that dates back to 1725. At one point, the offenders even threw their vehicles down the historic travertine steps, taking a four-inch chunk out the marble. Its restoration was estimated to cost €25,000 ($27,200), although the culprits were only fined €400 ($435) each “in accordance with the provisions of the Urban Police Regulations”, according to police.

Only months prior to that, Roman police apprehended a 37-year-old Saudi man at Milan’s international airport as he tried to leave the country. He was charged with “aggravated damage to cultural heritage and monuments” after driving a rented Maserati sportscar down the iconic Spanish Steps, fracturing two of the steps and marring the monument with “widespread chippings, scratches, abrasions and deposits”.

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Source: TravelPulse

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