Ponte Santa Trinita is the bridge located to the West of the Ponte Vecchio. This bridge was designed by Michelangelo, built by Bartolomeo Ammanatti, and was destroyed in the Second World War, but was replaced in 1958. It is the oldest elliptical arch bridge in the world. There are statutes of the 4 seasons adorning each corner of the bridge. These statutes were recovered from the Arno after the bridge was destroyed and returned to their original positions. Additionally, the stones that the bridge was made from were also recovered for its replacement.

Almost every day, at some time of the day, I sit on this bridge and take in the Ponte Vecchio, people watch or view the sunset. It is the best place to take a photo of the Ponte Vecchio with the best light and strongest view during the day or at night. Most of my sunset photos were taken from this bridge. This bridge connects Florence to the Oltrarno via Tournabouni Street, the great shopping district in Florence.

You will find San Miniato al Monte above Piazzale Michelangelo overlooking Florence. It is Florence’s only Romanesque church. I visited it recently to hear the monks do the Gregorian chant at vespers which was at 4:30 in the afternoon. The day was sunny and hot, but the church was cool and calm inside. The mass was held in the lower chapel leaving the main area opened for tourists.

To get to the church there are several flights of stairs so be prepared. Once at the top, you will be glad that you made the climb. The outside of the church is covered with geometric shapes of green and white marble. The church was built in the 11th century. There is a monastery attached to the church, where monks still live today. The gift shop there sells honey, soaps, liqueurs and other wares made by the monks.

Like all of the churches in Florence, you will find unbelievable Renaissance art by Gaddi, Michelozza, della Robbia, and a beautiful mosaic which was never finished and was supposedly wrapped in mattresses by Michelangelo to protect it during the siege of Florence in 1530.

The American Consulate is in a huge and beautiful palazzo on the banks of the Arno at Lungarno Amerigo Vespucci. The flag waves out front and it is blocked by barricades to traffic on the surrounding roads. There are armed guards outside the building in military uniforms, Italian military.

I pass the consulate often on my bike rides out to Cascine Park, and have only been inside a couple of times. Both times required appointments, leaving cell phone with the guard, going through security screening, and paying a lot of money (50 usd) for a notary signature. I am registered with the American consulate as a resident of Florence and have received correspondence from the about the recent Census and other laws affecting immigrants and security threats.

Once a friend of mine and I were passing and she wanted to take a photo of me in front of the consulate, but at the site of the camera, a guard rushed over to tell her she was not allowed to take photos in the vicinity of the embassy. On a recent bike ride, an Italian business man walked by talking on his cell phone and was immediately confronted and told to turn it off. These photos were taken from the Ponte Amerigo Vespucci with a zoom lens in order to protect the innocent.

The consulate website does indicate that cell phones can’t be taken into the consulate, but really, is all of that necessary? I understand the increased security since 9-11, and now ISIS threats throughout the world, but I find it a little embarrassing, with all of the tanks, military and rules about cell phones and cameras. There are many other consulates in Florence: Grenada, Austria, Bangladesh, France, Netherlands, Finland, Greek, etc. None of these have this type of “threatening and intimidating” security. Why is that? I find it extreme. Thoughts?