The oldest bridge in Florence, named Ponte Vecchio, was first built in ancient Roman times.
The oldest bridge in Florence, named Ponte Vecchio, was first built in ancient Roman times. It was only made of wood and up until 1218, it was the only bridge that crossed the Arno River.
The old Ponte Vecchio in Florence didn’t resist the flooding of the bridge in 1333, leading to it being reconstructed in 1345 as the bridge we see today. Nowadays, it’s one of the most popular sites visited by tourists during a highlights tour of Florence. Let’s find out more about the old bridge!
History of Ponte Vecchio in Florence
As said before, the Ponte Vecchio we see today was only built in 1345 and it used to be surrounded by all kinds of shops, usually, butchers and blacksmiths up until Duke Fernandino chose that they had to leave and replaced the shops with jewelers and goldsmiths to avoid loud and excessive noise on the bridge.
Another reason why the shops of blacksmiths and butchers were replaced is probably that the Medici family used the Corridoio Vasariano, a passageway located right on top of the shops at the sides of the bridge, to quickly go from Palazzo Pitti to Palazzo Vecchio. This prestigious family was probably disturbed by these shops and had them replaced with more elegant stores.
The bridge had to face a lot of difficulties throughout the centuries but it luckily survived the bombings of the Germans during World War II and it was just as lucky when, on the 4th of November 1966, the Arno broke its banks causing a great flood.
Architecture of Ponte Vecchio
The structure of Ponte Vecchio consists of three arches, with the central one being over 30 meters long.
At the center of the bridge, we can find the bust of the Italian artist Benvenuto Cellini, who used to be a goldsmith. Nowadays, the bust has been surrounded by a fence where lovers usually hang padlocks with their initials on them and then throw the key in the Arno as a symbol of everlasting love!
The secret passageway
As previously mentioned, crossing the shops of Ponte Vecchio, there’s a hidden passageway called Corridoio Vasariano (Vasari’s secret corridor) that connects Palazzo Vecchio and Palazzo Pitti. This corridor was commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici who wanted a way for his family to get from one palace to the other without being seen by the Florentines.
This corridor was designed by Vasari and it’s almost a kilometer long. In order to build this passageway, three of the four towers located on Ponte Vecchio belonging to rich families had to be removed. The only one that managed to not be demolished was the tower belonging to the Mannelli family.
Where you may have seen Ponte Vecchio of Florence
Ponte Vecchio was the protagonist of many movies throughout the years.
Here are some movies to watch if you want to spot Ponte Vecchio:
- Hannibal, directed by Ridley Scott;
- Inferno, directed by Ron Howard;
- I laureati, directed by Leonardo Pieraccioni;
- Incompreso, directed by Luigi Comencini
CONCLUSION: Ponte Vecchio surely is an eternal symbol of the city of Florence and it’s definitely something that you must see on your trip to the amazing city of Florence! Find out more about Italy and make the most of your trips by booking a tour with us!