The Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) is one of the most famous bridges in the world and one of the most romantic attractions in one of the most romantic cities in the world: Florence. The Germans found it so impressive that it was spared during World war II.
Ponte Vecchio Florence
Opening Hours: The bridge can always be visited. Entrance fee: Free, if you succeed in rejecting the intrusive trinket-sellers. Public transport: Bus: C3, D.
The oldest version of the Ponte Vecchio was (probably by the Romans) made of stone and wood and is mentioned for the first time in a document from 996.
This bridge was destroyed twice in the following centuries by flooding, before being rebuilt by Taddeo Gaddi.
After the war, the Ponte Vecchio was rebuilt using parts of the old material wherever possible, although of course new materials were also needed.
The Ponte Vecchio consists of three arches, of which the two closest to the shore are each 27 metres long. The middle one has a length of 30 metres.
Probably the word “bankrupt” has its origin in the Ponte Vecchio. When a merchant on the bridge ran out of money, his stall (banco) was broken in half (rotto).
The bust in the middle of the bridge depicts Benvenuto Cellini, one of the most famous goldsmiths in Florence.
In 1966, when there were many floods, several shops were washed away and many valuable jewels ended up in the river.
Shops and Stalls on the Ponte Vecchio
The original merchants on the Ponte Vecchio were butchers and greengrocers, but in 1593 Ferdinand I de’ Medici decided that this was no longer possible. The Vasari Hall (Corridoio Vasariano), which was built in 1565 and connects Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti and the Boboli Gardens, runs above the stalls and the smell of rotting meat and fruit was obviously not spent on the noble noses of the Florentine nobility. It was decided that from then on only goldsmiths and jewellers were allowed to work on the bridge. You could therefore claim that this is a case of “Swine before Pearls”.
Ponte Vecchio Now
Of course times have changed and not all shops on the Ponte Vecchio are inhabited by goldsmiths anymore. Today, many of the 43 shops still on the bridge are ordinary souvenir shops.
Mark Twain and Adolf Hitler
When Mark Twain visited Florence and stood on the Ponte Vecchio, he didn’t understand why they wanted to build a bridge over that little stream that he thought you could wade through on foot. According to the great writer it was definitely not worthy of the name “river”.
Even in 1944, when Florence was bombed by the Nazis, the old bridge was spared. When the Germans had to withdraw for the Allies, Hitler had all the other bridges destroyed, but had the entrance to Ponte Vecchio on both sides blocked by the remains of the other bridges and destroyed houses.
Ponte Vecchio Tourist Attractions
In the middle of the bridge there is an opening on both sides which offers a beautiful panorama of the river and the buildings along the bank. To have a nice view of the Ponte Vecchio itself, it is best to cross the river at the Ponte Santa Trinità.
The Vasari Hall was built in 1565. A problem was the Manelli Tower on the southern end of the bridge, which was meant to defend it in case of a possible attack. When the owners refused to destroy the tower, Vasari was forced to work around it.