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From Barbie Nadeau, CNN
(CNN) – The Ponte Vecchio, a beautiful centuries-old bridge spanning the Arno River in the Italian city of Florence, is best viewed on foot, with crowds of tourists regularly thronging the pedestrianized structure to view its ancient stonework.
Especially when, as one California tourist discovered this week, attempting to drive across it could cost you more than $540.
The unnamed 34-year-old man was hit with a 500-euro fine after crossing the bridge in a white rented Fiat Panda car, and for driving without an international driver’s license, on Thursday morning, according to a statement from the City of Florence press office.
He told police he was searching for parking and didn’t realize that he was on the famous medieval bridge, according to the statement.
The Ponte Vecchio is enclosed, lined with shops, and normally heaving with pedestrian traffic.
The 98-foot (30-meter) long landmark, which crosses the narrowest part of the Arno River, links the Pitti Palace to Piazza Repubblica. The original bridge was begun in the year 996 and finished in 1345, and has been swept away in floods and rebuilt several times.
It is the only bridge in Florence not bombed by Germany in World War II. It also houses the Vasari Corridor, a passageway originally used by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici between the Pitti Palace and the Palazzo Vecchio.
The City of Florence has earmarked 2 million euros for an extensive renovation project, according to the City of Florence budget.
The Fiat Panda driver isn’t alone when it comes to tourists causing trouble for themselves by apparently taking a wrong turn into a famous Italian landmark.
Last May, a Saudi man was apprehended trying to leave Italy after he drove a rented Maserati sports car down the Spanish Steps in Rome and fled the scene after the vehicle became stuck halfway. He was charged with aggravated damage to cultural heritage and monuments.
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