What is it?
Ponte Vecchio, or 'the Old Bridge', is the only one of the city's bridges to have survived World War II. Today, it is a shopping arcade of sorts, traditionally mostly jewellers since the days of the Medici.
The Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge, is a Medieval bridge over the Arno River,noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common. Butchers initially occupied the shops; the present tenants are jewelers, leather shops, art dealers and souvenir sellers. It has been described as Europe's oldest wholly-stone, closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge.
The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman times. The Roman piers were of stone, the superstructure of wood. The bridge first appears in a document of 996. It is believed that the concept of bankruptcy originated here: when a merchant could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the "banco") was physically broken ("rotto") by soldiers, and this practice was called "bancorotto" (broken table; possibly it can come from "banca rotta" which means "broken bank". Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.
During World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was not destroyed by Germans during their retreat of August 4, 1944, unlike all other bridges in Florence. This was allegedly because of an express order by Hitler. Access to Ponte Vecchio was, however, obstructed by the destruction of the buildings at both ends, which have since been rebuilt using a combination of original and modern design.
Take a walk across the Ponte Vecchio. However, it can get so very crowded that I wouldn't do it during any time but the early morning before the crowds start gathering. The bridge is lined with expensive jewelry shops. Good for window shopping but I'm not sure there are any deals to be found. If you can steal a spot near the edge you can get pretty pictures of the Arno River.
The “Ponte Vecchio” (“Old Bridge”) is a symbol of Florence. First constructed by Romans at the narrowest point of the Arno river.
It is the only bridge that wasn’t destroyed by the Nazis during their Italian withdraw in 1944.
Spanning the Arno river, which originates in the Tuscan Apennines and flows into the Ligurian Sea at Pisa, is another one of Florence's tourist icons, the Ponte Vecchio.
A bridge has been located at this point of the Arno since the Roman times but the original structure dates from 1345. It consists of three segmental arches and is topped by shops and merchants displaying their goods. Originally home to the city's butchers, the Medici Grand Dukes prohibited them from selling their wares on the bridge and instead were replaced by Goldsmiths. They, as well as jewellers and tourist shops are still found on the bridge today.
You can not help but cross the Arno as a tourist, be it to view the shops, the street buskers or to share a romantic moment, but aside from the historical and sentimental importance of the bridge, it is also a main feature of a lovely river and a pratical means of exploring Florence's south bank which is a must for visitors who are staying more than a day or two in the Tuscan capital.
Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence. In 1345 the current bridge replaced an earlier wooden one that was swept away in a flood. It is also the only bridge that was not bombed during World War II.
Goldsmiths took up resident centuries ago, building extensions from their shops that overhang the river. Although no craftsmen actually "work" in their shops today, the jewellery is beautiful.
The area is great for people watching, enjoying the river, and side-stepping hawkers, portrait artists, and souvenir vendors.
We had nice weather for our walk across the bridge and even though it was a holiday and the shops were closed, had a really nice time taking in the sites around the river. We made it to the other side and walked along Via de' Guicciardini, down some little streets, and then along Lungarno Torrigiani and back across Ponte Santa Trinita for nice views of Ponte Vecchio. On the Lungarno Torrigiani side are the Museo Di Storia Della Scienza (science museum), Meseo Horne, and the Biblioteca Nazionale (National Library). It was a nice area and one of the things I loved were the "expressive" fountains (see 2nd photo in tip).
You can spend as much or as little time visiting Ponte Vecchio - a quick trip to the bridge or a leisurely walk to the other side. This was my 3rd or 4th trip to Florence and the first time I made the trip across. Definitely recommend doing that.
The Arno River is swift at times and it adds to the pleasure of great scenery. It is and was am important method to move goods to the sea and it ends in Pisa. The river originates in the hills of the Apennines. It has flooded cities many times. The latest for Florence was in 1966 for Florence when it rained nearly 8 inches in 24 hours.
One of the symbols of Florence, I feel that the more you look at Ponte Vecchio the more you fell in love with its corners, with its light, with the colors, with the river.
Just go there as often as you can, in the morning, at sunset and during the night...and stay for a while.
Before coming to Florence, I was having a drink with an American student in Venice and we were discussing the usual travelers' tales - so I asked him what he thinks of Florence. His first impression? The the polluted Arno river. From then on, the vision of a polluted river stuck and that was the first thing that came to my mind when I finally got my chance to see the river myself - and yes, it looked and smelled pollution! This was even confirmed by the staff at the hotel, but they were unapologetic about it. One even does some sculling on the river, as do some brave Florentines every afternoon.
Pollution tales aside, the river projects an enchanting image during sunset. Perhaps the best way to maximize your Arno experience is to view the river from different vantage points. Piazzale Michelangelo is the best place to catch a bird's eye view of the river and the city, while Ponte Vecchio views are best enjoyed from Ponte Santa Trinita. The changing colors of the autumn sunset - from purplish pink to deep reddish orange reflecting on the Arno are mesmerizing.
The Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge is an inhabited urban bridge lined with jewellers shops.
The current structure was built in 1345.
It is the only of Florence's bridges which survived WWII and several floods.
The Ponte Vecchio crosses the river Arno in the centre of Florence and connects the Uffizi Gallery with Palazzo Pitti.
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