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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

Florence 2018: A city as beautiful as ever

When tourists flock to Italy, as so many do on an annual basis, they invariably hit three major spots: Rome, Venice and Florence. Of those three, I've spent the most time in Florence.

There was the time, when working for Bloomberg Government, that I spent a month in Rome — living in an apartment and commuting every day by bus to an office in the Piazza del Popolo. But that was, for me, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Mostly, I've traveled in Italy as a tourist, accompanying my university-law-professor wife. And after this most recent of our excursions, we will have visited all 20 of the country's regions — including Sicity and Sardinia. Not exactly the same thing as visiting all 50 states, which we both also have done, but close enough.

At the moment, we're in Florence, the home of Dante and so many world-class sites it would take an entire guidebook to list them all. So I thought I'd start with one of the most famous: the Ponte Vecchio (see photo above).

Translated as merely Old Bridge, which sounds far more pedestrian than the Italian version, the Ponte Vecchio was built at the closest spot where the Arno River separates the city center from the city's southern neighborhood (known as the Oltrarno). It dates back to Roman times, though the first historical reference to it was in 996.

Since then, it has been destroyed and rebuilt on numerous occasions. It managed to survive World War II, though it was damaged during the famous 1966 Arno flood. Today, it is a traditional meeting place, where tourists, musicians and street performers of all types congregate amid the sight-seekers who window shop along the various jewelry stores that line both sides.

It is also one of the most photographed bridges in the world. This is just my latest contribution.