Ponte Vecchio, the Florence Old Bridge is a symbol of the city of Florence and one of the most famous bridges in the world. It is also the main destination if you want to buy jewels in gold as it hosts mainly jewellery shops.
The OLD BRIDGE crosses the Arno River at its narrowest point, where in ancient times there was a ford. Its first construction dates back to Roman times, but was repeatedly damaged by flooding of the river. In 1080 it was made of wood, afterwards in 1170 it was rebuilt with five stone arches, damaged again and swept away by the flood of 1333, one of the most violent on record.
After the construction of 'embankments', the bridge was rebuilt in three passes by Taddeo Gaddi (according to Vasari) in 1345. In 1442 the city authority imposed butchers to move their businesses on the bridge to keep the city clean from the smell of the blood and rotten meat, and it became the meat market of the city. In 1564, Grand Duke Cosimo De’ Medici asked Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574, painter, historian, architect) to design a Corridor connecting Palazzo della Signoria(the Governament Palace, yesterday as today) to Palazzo Pitti (Grand Duke residency) passing through the Uffizzi Gallery and on top of the Ponte Vecchio, to move freely from his residence to the governament Palace avoiding to walk in the unsafe streets of the time. In 1593 the meatmarket on the bridge had become too nasty and Ferdinando I De' Medici ordered that goldsmiths would move in the tiny shops on the bridge where they still function as jewelry shops.
During Hitler’s visit to Italy in 1939, the Bridge and the Vasarian Corridor were much appreciated and in 1944 during the second world war, it has been the only bridge of Florence spared by the German bombs, only the ends of the bridge were damaged and during the liberation the passageway became the only way connecting the two sides of the town, allowing alleys and the resitance groups to help the Florentines rebuilt what Florence is today!
Ponte Vecchio is one of the most romantic spots in Florence, always crowded at any time with people taking pictures and looking amazed at the goldsmiths windows. At sunset time there are always street artists playing and singing music. There is also a small fountain with drinkable water and there is a great ice cream joint LA BOTTEGA DEL GELATO in Via Por Santa Maria, where you can get your refreshing gelato on a stick!!
There is a recent tradition for the Ponte Vecchio ‘padlocks’, although it has been practiced in other countries. Maybe it was introduced by the padlock shop owner at the end of the bridge and it is popularly connected to idea of love and lovers: it is believed by young couples that by locking the padlock and throwing the key into the river, the lovers became eternally bonded. This has created a massive effect also on tourists: thousands of padlocks need to be removed frequently, spoiling or damaging the structure of the centuries-old bridge and especially to the railing around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini; for this reason the city administration had to put a sign on the bridge mentioning a 160€ penalty for those caught locking something to the fence.