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 Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in Florence by virtue that the Germans in WWII did not destroy it, crosses the Arno River near the Uffizi Gallery. Today it is lined with gold jewelry shops and is a popular place for tourists. In the center of the bridge is a bust of artist and goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini and is a good place for a photograph and on a clear sunny day you can see the reflections of the buildings in the river.
As you cross the bridge, you can see the Vasari Corridor along the tops of the shops on the left side. This is a private walkway created by Vasari for the Medici family to get from the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi (when they were government office buildings) to their home at the Palazzo Pitti.
The bridge gets rather crowded so watch your belongings and be aware of pickpockets.
In the middle of the bridge is an area that many people have attempted to place love locks on, but the Florentine authorities are no longer allowing these locks of love on the Ponte Vecchio. Be forewarned if you are thinking about doing this with your special someone here in Florence!
The Ponte Vecchio is a bridge over the River Arno and is the oldest surviving bridge in Florence - it has withstood flood and war since 1345. In fact it was the only bridge in Florence to survive Nazi explosives in 1944.
It is unique, as both edges of the bridge are lined with buildings.
Originally these buildings housed butcher shops, but these were eventually closed down as the butchers used to throw unwanted leftovers into the river, polluting it.
It is now lined with jewellery shops, making it not just a Must See Activity, but a chance for some shopping as well!
In the middle of the bridge there is a gap in the shops, enabling you a great view of the river and the buildings on opposite banks.
The Ponte Vecchio ("Old Bridge" in Italian) dates back to 1345, and it's the only bridge in Florence that was not destroyed by the German troops when they retreated in August 1944. It's built practically at street level, so when there are lots of people around you hardly even notice when you start crossing the bridge! What makes Ponte Vecchio so interesting is that it still holds several shops on both sides, just like in the old days. When the bridge was first built, most of the space was occupied by blacksmiths and butcher stalls, but they were eventually replaced by jewellers by order of Ferdinando de Medici. This explains why we still mostly find jewelleries on Ponte Vecchio today instead of the expected souvenir shops. The "Vasari Corridor" runs on one side of the bridge (the left side when looking towards the Oltrarno area); this sheltered hallway was built 1564 to allow the Medici family to walk from the Palazzo Vecchio to their new residence, Palazzo Pitti, located on the other side of the Arno River, without having to mingle with the population. The corridor can be recognized thanks to a series of small, round windows.
Although there are a lot of famous things in beautiful Florence I would say that the old bridge, Ponte Vecchio, is at least on top 3.
It took me three or four visits to Florence before I actually got there, and the first time I actually was standing on the bridge was on the way between two bars, shortly after midnight, so i can't really say that I was totally aware about that I actually was there... ;)
The second time was better though, and definately worth the earlier tries to find it (yeah, I know... It's not that hard to find the bridge, but you know me and maps... At least I got to see some other rivers in Florence!).
Actually I'm not sure about my "title", since I thought, and it seems, like people are living inside the bridge. But other people say that there are only shops there, mostly jewellers.
Anyway, the bridge is overcrowded by tourists, as the whole city, but it's still worth a visit. Try to find some space on the bridge, and watch out over the Arno River.
Or even better, try to find some space on one of the other bridges, close by, and watch the Ponte Vecchio from there!
The bridge was built in 1333, and rebuilt 1345. From the beginning built as a bridge for soldiers to pass over the river, but soon instead that was packed with merchants.
Later on the mighty people in Florence wanted to give the bridge a more glamour style, and made sure to throw away these people.
It was the only bridge in Florence that wasn't destroyed during the second world war, but instead nature itself fixed it 20 years later... Floods destroyed all the shops, although the bridge itself survived.
(Thanks to jlee008 for most of the information!)
The Arno River flows for more than 200 kms through Tuscany, and passes through the centre of Florence.
I love walking across the Ponte Vecchio and then wandering along the side of the river.
It is a great place for taking photos of the buildings on the banks, including the Uffizi.
I love a good River.
Especially when it's in Tuscany and its banks are lined with gorgeous buildings!
The section that stretches over the Ponte Vecchio holds the famous Collection of Self-portraits, which include paintings by Vasari and Bernini. There are also works by Italian artists such as Annibale Carracci, Guido
Reni, Artemisia Gentileschi and by foreign ones such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Velazquez.
The corridor is sometimes open to the public and can be accessed from inside the Uffizi.
It is not currently possible to arrange any tours by now...
The Vasari Corridor may be reopening in mid-September 2004. Information will be available in August 2004.
Most of the world's great romantic cities have a river:
Prague has the Vltava, Paris has the Seine, Heidelberg the Neckar and Florence has the Arno River.
The Arno flows through Tuscany, is approximately 240km long and empties into the Ligurian Sea just below Pisa.
Even if you are not planning on doing any shopping, a stroll across the Arno on Ponte Vecchio and the other bridges is a lovely addition to a day well-spent in Florence.
A bit of history:
The first wooden construction from 972 was destroyed by a flood in 1117. It was rebuilt in stone but it was devastated again in 1332 by a fire and collapsed again in 1333. The current structure of high stability was built in 1345 from a design by Neri di Fioravante and has since survived several floods and wars. To the left of the bridge, above the shops, runs a long corridor (built in 1565 under the orders of Cosimo I De' Medici) which connects the Uffizi Gallery with Palazzo Pitti.
Nowadays, most shops on Ponte Vecchio sell gold & silver jewellery. (I'm not a huge fan of jewellery... maybe Armani, Gucci, D&G might have a "sale" on.... please?.... anyone?.... haha!)
The most famous and most ancient bridge in Florence (1345) -- the only one the Germans didn't blow up in their retreat. It crosses the Arno River which caused disastrous floods in the past, but is now controlled.
This charming pedestrian bridge is lined mostly with shops of goldsmiths and jewelers. The view from the center of the bridge is lovely -- nothing more romantic than a stroll across it at dusk, or late in the evening after a warm dinner of rustic Tuscan food in the glow of your afterdinner "digestivo."
Some people have told me they were disappointed in the bridge, after all the hype. Yes a bit crowded. And yes, in the harsh light of day, the architecture doesn't exactly soar. But tone down your Disneyesque expectations, and go at the time you see in my photo, just at dusk, when everything turns magical.
At the widest point of the Arno River in Florence, this bridge was first constructed by the ancient Romans. It has been destroyed and rebuilt several times ---1117 flood, 1332 fire. The current stone construction dates to 1345 although the designer is not certain. In 1565, Cosimo I de Medici ordered the construction of a passageway over the bridge linking the Uffizi and Pitti palaces, designed and named after Vasari. The Medicis apparently did not enjoy contact with the common populace on the main level. Today it houses a collection of self-portraits of the Renaissance greats, but is frequently closed to the public. The shops on the bridge were originally butcher shops, replaced by gold merchants to improve the prestige of the bridge. Myth has it that the concept for the work bankrupt came from the "bancorotto" or the breaking of the legs of the table on which a merchant sold his wares when he was unable to pay his debts. Today's occupants fall into 2 classes - very expensive and very cheap jewelry.
Originally the bridge was built just to allow access over the Arno. Slowly, with so much traffic going over it, merchants decided to set up shop on the bridge itself.
As that early traffic consisted primarily of traveling soldiers, it isn't surprising that the first merchants to set up shop were blacksmiths, butchers, and tanners.
Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of Florence's six bridges, is one of the city's best known images. Probably going back to Roman times with its stone pillars and wooden planks; it was built in stone but then newly destroyed by a flood in 1333. It was built again twelve years later, perhaps by Neri da Fioravante (or Taddeo Gaddi, according to Giorgio Vasari).
The five arches became three and the main part was widened. The shops, housed under the porticos, first belonged to the Commune which then rented them out. But later on, towards the 15th century, they were sold to private owners and began to change through subsequent additions, raised parts and external terraces, extending towards the river and altering the original architecture in an anarchical, suggestive way.
Above the houses, on the upstream side of the bridge, is so-called Vasari Corridor, built by Vasari for Cosimo I to go from Palazzo Pitti to Palazzo Vecchio. In the middle of he bridge a bronze bust of Benvenuto Cellini have been placed in 1900. There are plenty of shops on either side of the bridge, still working, and most of them are the workshops of artisan goldsmiths.
It is the oldest surviving bridge in the city....... the most famous......and if you take it a visit, you will see why it is always the busiest!!!
Built in 1345, and designed by Gaddi (pupil of the great Giotto), it was originally used by butchers, blacksmiths etc. for the disposal of waste. This came to an end in 1593 though, when Duke Ferdinando evicted them due to the vile STENCH, and replaced them with jewellers and goldsmiths........ and the industry has lasted to the present day!
It was the citys only bridge to escape destruction in World War II, and today visitors come not only to glance at the stunning views down the River, but also to part-take in a little hard-bargaining with the many antique and specialized jewellery shops.
Truly an experience of old Florence not to be missed!!!
More than any other place in Florence, the Arno holds a special place in my heart. With such attractions as the Ponte Vecchio and Uffizi directly on or crossing its banks, it is important for sightseeing reasons. But, more than that, it is just a beautiful place to stroll, not doing anything. There are many more bridges, though none as spectacular as the Vecchio, and it is very rewarding to see some of these. I suggest a few hours by foot along this river and you will be in complete agreement with me. The best time to spend here is right at dusk. (See my nightlife tip)