Aside from getting you over water, it was common for medieval bridges to have chapels and shops built over them, and many were fortified with towers and ramparts because bridges served important entry points to the cities.
The Ponte Vecchio or the “Old Bridge” over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, is a medieval stone bridge noted for still having shops built along it.
The first bridge over the Arno River was probably built by the Romans in stone and wood and is mentioned in a document that dates from 996.
The bridge was swept away in a flood in 1117 and was rebuilt in stone only to be destroyed again by another flood in 1333, save for its two central piers.
Consequently, the bridge was rebuilt again, twelve years later, designed by the Italian painter and architect Giotto’s most talented pupil Taddeo Gaddi, who was a painter and architect in his own right.
Photo: Artemisia Gentileschi channelled personal trauma into her art. (Getty: Universal Images Group)
An Italian seventeenth-century Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi’s paintings are “full of rage, of feminist anger”, Murray say.
While many women of her generation were expected to be little more than nuns, Gentileschi instead became an accomplished artist. She was the first woman to be admitted to the prestigious art academy, Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, in Florence.
Her paintings, Murray writes, typically depict strong female characters — whether they’re enacting revenge on men (Judith Slaying Holofernes) or re-imagining biblical scenes (Susanna and the Elders).
Painting of Judith Slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi, located in the Vasari Corridor in Florence.
Photo: Gentileschi’s take of this biblical account is considered more visceral than that of other artists. (Getty: Alinari Archives)
As a young woman, Gentileschi was sexually assaulted by another painter, Agostino Tassi.
She successfully pressed charges against him and he was convicted of rape in 1612.
“She used biblical stories to portray, in exquisite paintings, her fury at the sexual violence she herself had endured,” Murray writes.”I have no doubt that much of her work was inspired by events that could only have happened to a woman, particularly the terrible sexual violence she experiences as a teenager.”
But, she adds, “it would be wrong to assume her fame and appreciation was purely a result of her notoriety and vengefulness”.
The Biblioteca Vallicelliana is almost hidden, its entrance located through a mundane door in the façade of baroque maestro Francesco Borromini’s Chiesa Nuova, not far from Piazza Navona.
One of those shallow ceremonial stairways that unfortunately are no longer common leads to the library started by Saint Filippo Neri, the founder of the Congregation of Orators in 1575 and an avid bibliophile who put reading, study, and music at the center of his religious practice.
This was one of Rome’s first libraries built for public use, and the first in the world to stack books one on top of another vertically due to the invention of the printing press.
Its collection includes books banned by the Catholic Church, as well as a bible owned by Charlemagne.
The main reading room today is lined by wooden stacks with a creaky wooden floor, where people come to study the library’s manuscripts and archaeological texts.
Take a peek at the Sala Monumentale, across the hall from the main reception desk.
Designed by Borromini himself and dating from 1644, this huge, high-ceilinged room is lined with two-story wooden stacks, which hide a spiral staircase in each corner that leads to the upper level.
About 8 kilometers east from the city of Terni, in the Umbria region of Italy, is a beautiful three-tiered waterfalls called Cascata delle Marmore or the Marmore Falls.
Photo Credit: Photograph by MilaCroft/Shtterstock.com
The falls were once part of the ‘Grand Tour’ which wealthy young Englishmen of the 17th and 18th century took through France and Italy seeking out places of art, culture and the roots of Western civilization.
Marmore Falls’ curiosity lies not solely in its grandeur but also in the fact that it was a product of human intervention with nature.
Twenty-two hundred years ago, there was no waterfalls here. The River Velino, where the falls are located, took a completely different path ending in a swamp within the plains of Reiti.
The stagnant waters of the swamp was deemed unhealthy and was blamed for various illness that affected the population, and so the Roman consul Manius Curius Dentatus ordered the construction of a canal, known as Curiano Trench, in 271 BC, to drain the swamps and direct the excess waters into the natural cliff at Marmore creating the falls.
From there, the water fell into the Nera river below.However, the solution didn’t work out as expected. The Reiti valley continued to flood, and when water was high in the Velino River, it now flooded the Terni valley too where the water was diverted.
The man-made canal and the resulting flood became a long source of dispute between the inhabitants of Terni and Reiti valley.
The former wanted the canal closed, while the latter wanted the flow of the falls increased to accommodate the excess water. The issue between the two cities was so contentious that the Roman Senate was forced to address it in 54 BC, but a consensus couldn’t be arrived at and the matter remain unresolved for centuries.