Ponte Vecchio. Bridge in Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio

Bridge in Florence, Italy

Ponte Vecchio Sunset - Florence, Italy Photo © Justin Brown

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Ponte Vecchio

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Ponte
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Ponte vecchio - Ponte Vecchio. Photo by Piero Fissore
One of Italy’s most photographed bridges, the Ponte Vecchio is both the most famous and oldest one of all six bridges in Florence. This medieval bridge, the origins of which date back to ancient Rome, spans the Arno (Wikipedia Article) River and still has houses and shops built upon it.

While originally the bridge was home to butchers, tanners, and other craftsmen and food shops, it now houses jewelry stores and souvenir and antique shops. The Ponte Vecchio is a gorgeous pedestrian bridge, always filled with tourists, musicians, street performers, and artists, and is at its most beautiful at sunset. A notable feature is the Vasari Corridor, a walkway that runs over the shops and houses and connects the Uffizi with the Pitti Palace and was built by the Duke of Florence in the 16th century in order to easily commute between his two residences.

The Ponte Vecchio is thought to be the place where the term ‘bankruptcy’ originated. When a merchant couldn’t pay his debts, the table (“banco” in Italian) that he used to sell his goods was broken (“rotto” in Italian) by soldiers, a practice that became known as ”bancorotto”.

History

Spanning the Arno River at its narrowest point, the Ponte Vecchio is believed to have been built at the exact same spot where an ancient Roman bridge was located. That Roman bridge would have been made up of stone piers and a wooden superstructure. The first recordings of a (wooden) bridge at that location date from 996. After a flood swept away the bridge in 1117, it was rebuilt in stone. It was destroyed by another flood in 1333, except for the two central piers, and reconstructed again 1345. That was when it got its current appearance. The bridge was filled with stone houses and workshops, which was a common thing in medieval European cities. First those buildings were occupied by butchers and tanners, who used to throw their waste in the Arno River. Those workshops produced lots of garbage and their practices resulted in disgusting smells, two reasons for the Duke Ferdinand I to replace them with goldsmiths and jewelers in 1593. Nowadays, the bridge is still home to many jewelry stores, but also to souvenir and antique shops.

During the German retreat in World War II the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence that wasn’t destroyed.

Ponte Vecchio Sunset -
	Florence, Italy - Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio Sunset - Florence, Italy - Ponte Vecchio. Photo by Justin Brown

Features

The Ponte Vecchio is made up of three arches. Its main arch in the middle has a 98-foot span; the two side arches have an 89-foot span. The arches are between 11.5 and 4.4 meter high.

This absolutely beautiful pedestrian bridge is lined with stone buildings, including houses, workshops and stores. In the middle of the bridge there is an opening with two fantastic panoramic terraces, which offer great views of the Arno River and its building-lined banks.

Besides the shops and beautiful buildings, the main feature of Ponte Vecchio is the Vasari Corridor. This elevated walkway was built by Cosimo de’Medici (Wikipedia Article), Duke of Florence, in 1565. It passes over the shops and runs between the Uffizi and Pitti Palace. The duke had its constructed so that he wouldn’t have to walk across the crowded bridge. Interestingly, the corridor bends around the Manelli Tower on the bridge’s southern side, because the tower’s owners refused to give the duke a right of passage.

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ponte vecchio - Ponte Vecchio. Photo by Giuseppe Moscato

Visiting the Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio is one of Florence’s absolute highlights. It is a public place and therefore, of course, free to visit. What isn’t free, however, are the souvenirs and jewelry that are sold there. Because it is such a touristy area, prices are usually higher than elsewhere. It is therefore advised to look around and compare before buying something. Bargaining with vendors is common practice, though, and it is possible to find a great bargain.

Additionally, because of its popularity, the bridge is a playground for pickpockets. Visitors are strongly encouraged to keep an eye on their belongings.

People can stroll across the bridge at their own pace all day every day, but there are tours available as well. These tours usually take in other sights in the city as well, and may include a tour of the Vasari Corridor, which is definitely a highlight.

The best time to visit the Ponte Vecchio is around sunset.

How to Get There

Located in the city center of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio is easily reached on foot from other landmarks in the city. It crosses the Arno River between Via di Guicciardini and Via Por Santa Maria.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

Other major landmarks in Florence include the Florence Cathedral, the Palazzo Vecchio and the Boboli Gardens.

Other famous old bridges elsewhere in the world are the Pont Alexandre III in Paris, the Tower Bridge in London, and the Charles Bridge in Prague.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 08, 2015

Pictures of Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio. Photo by Bernard Blanc

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