Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Rare, Beautiful, and Expensive at Ponte Vecchio

In the Florence, there is an ultra touristy spot on the river Arno called Ponte Vecchio, or 'old bridge'. In its current form, it was supposedly finished in 1345, but a bridge had been there since Roman times. Here is a picture I took of it from the Uffizi museum.

On and along this bridge might be one of the highest concentration of expensive jewelry stores in all of Italy or the world for that matter, but on that mild October day, I was only interested in one kind of shop.

No, not a coffee shop, that would be later. The shops that held my interest sold pietre dure, also known as Florentine mosaic. If you are unfamiliar, pietre dure is stone art where the pieces are 'jigsaw' cut by hand with a little diamond bow lubricated with wax and special mud for extreme precision in fitting the pieces together. Some of the works look as fine as any painting because of the level of intricacy and careful gradation of color.

In one of the shops, I spotted what I was after. A modern table top utilizing an extrordinarily rare green stone used for palaces and noble residences in Roman times, lapis Lacedaemonius often erroneously called 'green porphyry' or 'serpentine'. I want to reconstruct a small part of the Roman senate floor using authentic materials, and this is the stuff I'm missing.

I talked with the sales lady and showed her some of my work and mentioned I'd be interested in buying any raw materials they could spare at double their cost. The lady seemed enthusiastic and took me to meet the owner at a different shop on down from the bridge.

The lady owner / manager of the shop conversed with the sales lady for a few moments (I couldn't speak Mandarin and she looked kind of mean besides), and the sales lady returned and told me that the materials I was interested in were not available at any price. Then she shrugged and pointed out that I could purchase the table top and break it up for the material.
Destroying 11,000 Euro worth of perfectly good pietre dure art to get a few square inches of a pretty stone didn't seem like a good idea, so I thanked the nice sales lady and went on my way.

Note to the annoying shop owner in Florence: I obtained some of this material and have a contact in Rome to get more. Deal with it...


  1. You tell them, Tex. You are badass. You have your sources, you're like the Don of Mosaic an that lady can suck it dry.

    Oh. And it's "The Florence" now. Aren't YOU grand. :)

  2. Don of Mosaic...ahaha! Maybe you should change your blog name.

    I stayed right off Ponte Vecchio while visiting my Husband's cousin a few years ago. For some reason, I'm an idiot (well I know the reason) and got suckered into buying a knock off purse from a vendor. My idiot light should have gone off when the polizia came and we all had to run down an alley. But no, I still gave them my money. And that was in the first hour I'd arrived in the city. Sucker American.

  3. For a moment, I thought "ponte vecchio" meant "Bridge of the Cow." Heh.

    I think you're going to have a hard time finding Caesar's blood to throw on your reconstruction of the Senate floor. Hah! I kill me!

  4. I went there a long time ago. When you threw food off the bridge, you could see loads of fish darting towards it and it created a radial pattern. I might be muddling it with Lucerne or Pettite Adventure Theme Park but the fish certainly did that somewhere.

    I think I amy have caught a hint of your unique comment genre there.

  5. Yes, may she shove it where the sun doesn't shine!

    A contact in Rome, eh? Sounds like you infiltrated the Italian Mafia.
    Have a nice weekend!

  6. you showed her what's up! some "lady owners" get a little power and it goes straight to their lady heads. bitches. :)


  7. I don't really know what perfectly good pietre dure art is but I hope I haven't been accidentally destroying it as I go about my daily business. If I have I sincerely apologise.

  8. Haha, thanks "The Vegetable Assassin". :)

    I think the police over there can heavily fine people who buy the knock-off stuff from unlicensed vendors, if the particular guarda di finanzia officer that catches you is a jerk.

    As in Ponte de Vacca?
    I don't know, I know where he's buried so I can quickly clone him filling in the missing gaps with frog DNA. But wait, wasn't Gaius Julius stabbed in Pompey's theatre over by where the Pantheon is now?

    I think you have!
    I do like fish, when they pose no threat to you.


    Dutch Donut Girl,
    I've heard from different people the same story. If you make over a certain amount of money in Italy, the Mafia will come have a talk with you (100% chance of occuring).

    Hehe, yes, power trips and lady heads.
    Ok, I'll take your word for it.
    *holds out palm in 70's style* Now slap me a high 7.5...

    It's just an overpriced pile of rocks. If it's destroyed it can be rebuilt.

  9. Boy was that lady an idiot! Way to show her!

  10. I have visited Florence briefly, twice in the past 5 years, but did not go into the Uffizi. I will be visiting again in June and am planning to make the Uffizi my "must-see" destination. It would be great fun to be able to see the Ponte Vecchio from the same vantage point as your beautiful photograph.