Your Italian Travel Tips… Gone But Not Lost: The Bridges of Florence during World War II

Kathryn Occhipinti, MD
Kathryn Occhipinti, MD, for Conversational Italian for Travelers books

Ciao a tutti! Today I am featuring one of my favorite bloggers and her unique insights about Florence.

About once a month (or so), I have been re-blogging posts that describe the lesser known places in Italy – or the more well-known viewed in a unique way – under the heading, “Your Italian Travel Tips.” The post for August was written by Stacy di Anna Pollard,  who writes the blog Prayers and Piazzas, in which she shares her love of  Italy and the Italian language.

I was thrilled to return from my visit to Florence this past July to find that Stacy had just posted a blog about the history of the bridges of Florence.  So many visitors to Italy have walked across, photographed, and enjoyed the beauty of the bridges that cross the Arno River – as I was privileged to do again recently.  But until I read this article, I did not appreciate the sacrifices the Florentine people have undergone so we could enjoy their city today.  Luckily for us, Stacy loves to share her research!

In her own words, Stacy says about herself:

Wife, mom, friend, blogger, reader, Italiana-Americana, introvert. Here I write about the most important things in my life: my family (“prayers”) and my love of Italy and Italian (“piazzas”). I also enjoy writing about gratitude, joy, books and travel. Blogging from America with Italy on my heart. – Prayers and Piazzas: link to the site:


In the post to follow, Stacy describes how most of the bridges and much of the city of Florence was destroyed during World War II.  Read on to find out how the city’s most famous bridge – the Ponte Vecchio – was saved so that our generation and future generations will always be able to wonder at its glory!

And remember Conversational Italian for Travelers: Just the Important Phrases on and Learn Travel if you need a compact, lightweight pocket guidebook to take on your next trip to Italy! Free Cultural Notes, Italian Recipes, and Audio to help you practice your Italian are also found on Learn Travel

Prayers & Piazzas

By late July of 1944, Allied forces were very close to liberating Florence from the Nazis, who had occupied the city for the past year.

“The Allied forces are advancing on Florence,” warned thousands of leaflets dropped by American planes. “The city’s liberation is at hand. Citizens of Florence, you must unite to preserve your city and to defeat our common enemies… Prevent the enemy from detonating mines which they may have placed under bridges…” ¹

But different directives were coming from the German high command to the citizens of Florence. On July 29, 1944, residents along the Arno — around 150,000 people — were warned to leave their homes by noon the next day. Ultimately, the whole area was blocked off, with German paratroops standing guard at various posts.

On August 3, another warning was issued from the German high command: Beginning from this moment, it is prohibited for…

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