Come by day to shop, but come by night to admire the city lights reflecting off the river
Ponte Vecchio means ‘Old Bridge’, and it’s a deserved name: this structure dates back to 1345. It’s the oldest bridge in Florence — the only one to escape destruction as German forces retreated in 1944.
This bridge spans the Arno river at its narrowest point, but in fact scarcely looks like a bridge at all. Compared to the light and airy metallic structures of today, the Ponte Vecchio is pleasingly sturdy. Made of stone and wood, it is crowded with overhanging shops. It is not simply simple a way to get from A to B, but rather a road, market place and piazza all rolled into one.
Diamond in the Rough
The bridge is packed with jewellers’ shops, and has been since the 16th century when Ferdinando I de’ Medici sent them in as a more agreeable replacement for the malodorous butchers and fishmongers, who used to throw their putrid leftovers straight into the river. Florence was becoming a great centre of Renaissance culture, and they had to keep up appearances.
The Vasari Corridor is a covered passageway which runs above the shops on Ponte Vecchio. Cosimo I commissioned it to connect the Uffizi with the Pitt Palace, his humble abode across the river. When the Germans were retreating, only the bridge’s access points to the city were destroyed — in fact, the Vasari Corridor was, for a time, the only way to get from one side of the river to the other, short of having a boat.
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