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The Navigability of the Arno 04/08/2011

Posted by florencecapital in Uncategorized.
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‘There is a background here which it is well to remember; thinking, as one sees the boats still moving on the stream, of what that movement once meant to the city; how it linked her with Pisa and the sea, and how Florence was great very much because of her place on this open water-way. The matter does not lie altogether beyond the memory of living men. I heard of a case in which the furniture of an English family moving from Leghorn to Florence, as late as 1863, was brought up all the way by water in a barge to the old city port at the Pignone. There, indeed, a basin and shelter had long been contrived for the ‘gondolas’ of the Grand Duke – you may still see the plans of it in the Archivio – and thence the Court used to drop down-stream in these state barges on their way to a villeggiatura at the Ambrogiana of Montelupo, or some other country resort. If you would add to the impression, and know what serious use was made of the river in the sixteenth century, go to the Piazza of Santa Trinita, and measure the great column of Justice that stands in front of the Church. This mighty shaft of granite, once part of the Baths of Caracalla, was a gift of Pius IV to Cosimo I and came all the way by water from Rome to Signa. The journey might have been completed in the same way had the season not been summer: a trial to the patience of the Grand Duke and of his architect Vasari, who chose to have the monument dragged by road these last eight miles to Florence rather than wait for the rains and the rising river. Such was the capacity of the Arno and the use made of it in 1562.’

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