5 Fun History Facts about Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence Italy

Ponte Vecchio Bridge is one of the great icons of Florence Italy and considered to be one of the most famous bridges in the world. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge (meaning “Old Bridge”), is a medieval stone three-arch bridge over the Arno River with shops built along with it. Butchers initially occupied these shops but now jewellers, art dealers and souvenir sellers fill them. 

Reflection on the river from Ponte Vecchio Bridge florence Italy
Standing on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, looking at the reflection on the water

Ponte Vecchio Bridge Facts

The picturesque bridge has gone hand in hand with the Florentine people and the development of the city across the centuries, meaning there are many stories to be told about Ponte Vecchio bridge. 

 To help get you started on your journey over Ponte Vecchio Bridge. Here are 5 fun history facts;


1- Not the Original Bridge

Anyone who has ever visited Florence would have seen or crossed the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, over the Arno river exploring the many shops that line it. However, this is not the original bridge or shops that stand here today.

It is believed that the original bridge was built by the Romans in 996 from stone and wood. Then it was destroyed twice (1117 & 1333) by the many floods that use to frequently swept through Florence.

⇒  Check out Tellaro Village and see why it is the local Italian Secret

apartments along side Ponte Vecchio Bridge
The apartments alongside the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence

The current bridge was designed by Taddeo Gaddi and rebuilt in 1345 to withstand being destroyed by the floods. He had the arch’s lowered which meant they used fewer pillars and allow for the heavy water and debris to flow underneath the bridge more freely. 

This seemed to have worked because in 1966  when a catastrophic flood hit the city again, only the shops were damaged but the pillars survived being hit by the large debris carried by the floodwater.

⇒  How about taking a walking tour of Florence and learn more about this historical city? 

Ponte Vecchio Bridge from middle of river famous bridge in florence
The central part of the Ponte Vecchio bridge, Florence

2 – Bridge shops rented out to recoup money used

To recoup some of the money that was spent on rebuilding the bridge after completion, the Florence government decided to rent out the shops that were built on the Ponte Vecchio bridge. The previous shops that occupied the bridge were originally built of wood and would easily catch fire. So, when they rebuilt the bridge they used stone for the shops.

A boat going under the raised bascules of Tower bridge London EnglandRead More – Interesting Facts about Tower Bridge, London England

At first, the shops were rented out to butchers, however, this made the area on and around the Ponte Vecchio Bridge extremely dirty creating unpleasant conditions. To enforce the prestige of the bridge again, in 1593 it was prohibited for butchers to sell from there and were kicked out.

Their place was immediately taken over by gold merchants, which is still what currently occupies the shops today alongside art dealers and souvenir sellers.

Flags jutting from buildings on Florence street
Walking across the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, admiring the flags above the shops

3  – A Kink in the Corridor

The Vasari Corridor is an elevated enclosed pathway that goes from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, crossing over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. It was created so the Grand Duke could move freely between his residence and the government palace.

The addition of the Vasari Corridor changed the character of the bridge considerably. There were originally four towers guarding the entrances to the Ponte Vecchio bridge. When the corridor was built, one family refused to tear their tower down, so Vasari was forced to build a “detour” to go around it. The Mannelli tower can still be seen on the south side of the Arno today.

Mannelli tower
The Mannelli tower with the corridor going around it

4 – Adolf Hitler was a fan

Benito Mussolini wanted his guest of honour Adolf Hitler to admire the view of Florence Italy from the Vasari Corridor during his State Visit in 1939. So he had the original three windows in the centre of the bridge made into one large viewing gallery for this benefit.

They say it may be just as well that Benito Mussolini did this for Adolf Hitler. As legend has it that this view convinced him and his German officers to spare the Ponte Vecchio Bridge from being destroyed during their 1944 retreat.  Instead, they went on to destroy all the other bridges in the city, during the end of World War II. 

Then only reduced the buildings at both ends of the Ponte Vecchio bridge to rubble, in order to block the streets and 

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Green window shutters on the shops of the bridge
The shop windows on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence

5 – The Lockers of Love – A tribute to the art of goldsmithing

Benvenuto Cellini

The bronze bust that you see on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge is of Benvenuto Cellini. The statue was erected in 1901 to commemorate the 400th birthday of the Florentine goldsmith. He was a master goldsmith, sculptor, musician and artist (amongst other things). His statue is there to watch over the glittering windows of these prestigious shops.

⇒  If you are visiting Florence and want to marvel at famous statues in one of Europe’s oldest Museums. Then purchase a Fast-Track Ticket for Uffizi Museum

Here are some other amazing activities you can book while in Florence, Italy

The legend of Lockers

Legend has it that if you or your loved one attach a padlock to any part of the bridge. Then throw away the key into the Arno River, then you will have eternal love. This legend has become so popular that the overabundance of padlocks has given the bridge a gaudy appearance. To fix this the government had resorted to having them gradually removed to try and clean it up. 

However, for a period of time when they continued removing the padlocks, they kept on multiplying. So, the government introduce a hefty penalty to anyone who was caught locking anything to the Bridge.

Today, lovers simply come to the famous bridge to touch the remaining padlocks that are attached to the fence around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini, hoping they can to have eternal love. If, you are looking wanting to see the bridge and other famous Florence landmarks at your pace. Think about taking the Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour where you can get a 24, 48 or 72-Hour Ticket in advance.

long distance view of Ponte Vecchio Bridge

Admiring the Ponte Vecchio Bridge from afar, Florence

Discover other parts of Italy

Looking to discover other parts of Italy? Feel free to read the following articles. All are great options for groups of friends or family, especially who love the outdoors.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Please make sure to have your Face Mask and Hand Sanitiser where required before travelling. #Travelsafe 

  There are some amazing day trips that you can take from Florence with the option of having lunch and wine.  

Selfie on a bridge over the Arno with Pnte Vecchio bridge in the background
Me on one of the bridges across the Arno, Florence

Thank you for reading this article about the bridge, I hope you learnt something new about the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. 

These two options are good recommendations if you are interested in reading more about bridges and history. The Bridges (New edition): A History of the World’s Most Spectacular Spans or fun facts about Tower Bridge London.

Pinterest

   

Do you know any other fun facts about Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence Italy that I could add to the list? I would love to hear your suggestions below.

Disclaimer:  All views are my own based on my own experience.

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56 thoughts on “5 Fun History Facts about Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence Italy

  1. Avatar
    Bhushavali says:

    First I came to know of Ponte Vecchio Bridge from Dan Brown’s Inferno!!! Then when I finally made it to Florence, I managed to see from another bridge and from Uffizi Gallery! I didn’t know of points 4 & 5, rest I knew! So thanks for the new info! 🙂

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      You are more than welcome in regards to the facts… I love writing about it. It always amazes me the information that you learn about a place.

  2. Avatar
    Abhinav Singh says:

    Very meaningful post. So often, we pass through destinations without fully understanding it. It is always good to have some background knowledge while visiting a place. Every place has so much history if we care to learn. My favourite trivia was the bit on Adolf Hitler. Amusing!

  3. Avatar
    Alex says:

    I loved this! This is just the kind of post I search for when I’m in a city wanting more info about something so I hope many people find your post! I knew NONE of these facts, ashamedly. I think I must have been so taken aback by its beauty and involved in taking photos that I must have overlooked researching it!

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      I am glad that you like it Alex. I like doing posts like this because I love learning and writing about history especially about buildings. I notice now when I go back to places that I take things in even more about a place.

  4. Avatar
    tracy collins says:

    Really interesting post Mel – I really wanted to take a tour of the Vasari Corridor when I was in Florence last summer but it was sooooo expensive! Its a fascinating bridge and one that was lucky to survive WW2.

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      I am trying to think but I don’t remember going into the Vasari Corridor either, I had a look at my pictures and I have known from in there. I think the whole Italian history, in general, is so fascinating.

  5. Avatar
    Henry says:

    First time I’ve found your blog…it’s a breath of fresh air in the travel blog arena! Very cool story about the bridge, especially the kink in the corner!

  6. Avatar
    Jean says:

    Ah the old love bridge legens. It seems that every city has one of these. Even my home town of Melbourne which isn’t that old compared to the European cities!

    I had no idea that Hitler had visited and that windows were changed for his personal pleasure!

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      I am originally from Melbourne also but been in London for 13yrs now. Yes, Melbourne has some great history to but I am taken back how young it is compared to other places in the world.

  7. Avatar
    Rashmi and Chalukya says:

    Interesting to know these facts about the famed bridge. Unfortunately, during our visit to Florence, we missed walking on the bridge because it was terribly crowded and we couldn’t imagine pushing our baby stroller through it. The bridge and the views from the bridge look awe-inspiring. Good to know that Hitler spared the bridge and changed his mind about destroying it for us to marvel at it today.

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      Oh that is unfortunate that you didn’t get to go over the bridge but I completely understand why you didn’t. I would not want to push stroller across, I would struggle to walk across. Hopefully you get to go back one day.

  8. Avatar
    Raghav - TickerEatsTheWorld says:

    The bridge locks have really come up across the world now. I have to say that although they photograph beautifully, I personally have never understood the charm of it. Still, interesting to see the government take action against people who do this.

    Beautifully written and detailed post. Loved the photos and the breakdown of all the points.

    Often I have found that many of the famous bridges and monuments aren’t “original” as is the case here, but they are still fascinating and come with so much history that they still are so very special.

  9. Avatar
    Riely says:

    I was in Florence for a short day trip, but didn’t manage to go across the Ponte Vecchio bridge. I didn’t know any of these facts before reading this post. Interesting that Hitler would spare this bridge because he was once treated to its’ views. I imagine having butchers occupying the space beforehand would have been quiet unsanitary and fill up the place with odd smells. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Avatar
    Tanja says:

    This is really interesting! I have always wanted to visit Florence, I really love Italy but haven’t made it there yet. I hope I can make it there to check out the Ponte Vecchio bridge myself some day. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Avatar
    Global Girl Travels says:

    This bridge is no doubt an icon of Florence. It was nice to learn a few facts and trivia about this bridge. I wouldn’t be surprised about the re-building process – it has been around for such a long time so it probably wouldn’t endure! I hope to capture it and see this bridge myself one of these days. Love exploring sites with so many stories to tell!

  12. Avatar
    Deni says:

    I’ve never visited Florence before, but this is certainly a very interesting piece of history about the city! That’s very interesting that Mussolini convinced Hitler to save the bridge, even though he demolished shops at the end of the bridge! It’s also interesting to see how the bridge has withstood floods too since the 14th century! What an incredible (and beautiful) feat of engineering!

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      I love Italy and its history, you will definitely have to visit the bridge if you ever go there. Make sure you go early though as it gets busy.

  13. Avatar
    Melissa says:

    This makes me miss Italy so much! I only knew one of these five facts, so I found this all fascinating! It really is one of my favorite bridges in the world. I had no idea it had been destroyed before and it wasn’t the original bridge.

  14. Avatar
    Hendrik says:

    Florence is truly beautiful as I can see. It is more or less one of the few bigger Italian cities I haven’t seen yet, but after seeing your impressions I would definitely like to see it! Of course the Ponte Vecchio Bridge looks really impressive and its history sounds also very interesting. I try to imagine how this looked (and smelled) like when it was rented out to butchers…

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      Apparently, it smelt really bad when the butchers were on there and I think it would have been even worse during the summer periods. Glad to know that it is goldsmith shops now.

  15. Avatar
    Suze says:

    That was a great read, and I agree that the locks can be a problem since their weight could damage the bridge – that was the case at the Pont Neuf in Paris. We loved visiting Ponte Vecchio, so atmospheric!

  16. Avatar
    Arianne says:

    omg I have visited like 4 times and didn’t know any of these! Very fun interesting facts! Thank you for sharing girlie and keep up the awesome posts!

  17. Avatar
    Katie says:

    Your pictures are stunning! Some of those shots with the lake and the buildings reflecting are just perfect! Florence is high on my bucket list and this post reminded me why! thanks for sharing 🙂

  18. Avatar
    Ha says:

    I visited Florence this January and also saw the Ponte Vecchio Bridge as well. It’s my favorite spot in Florence, but I didn’t know about these facts xD! So useful post to help me understanding more about this bridge!

  19. Avatar
    Arzo Travels says:

    I have never been to Florence so this bridge is not too familiar to me. I am dying to visit though and it is cool to have some background information 🙂 Though I cannot give any additional information I am totally into bridges but except for the Rialto Bridge in Venice I mostly know the bigger ones like Brooklyn Bridge (by the way, great pics).

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      You can’t miss it if you ever go to Florence and it is one of the main ways to get across the river 🙂 I love bridges to and it always amazes me how much history are behind them.

  20. Avatar
    Reshma says:

    This is such an informative post! Thanks for covering all the wonderful facts about this bridge. I loved the one about the locks and Adolf Hitler – Glad that the bridge was saved in the WW II.

  21. Avatar
    Diana - MVMT Blog says:

    What a beautiful bridge and beautiful city! Really interesting facts – I thought the one about how Hitler spared this bridge because he liked it so much was fascinating. Thanks for sharing!

  22. Avatar
    Kristen says:

    I’ve been to the bridge but didn’t know this much history. It’s really cool and I’m glad the current one has been able withstand flooding!

  23. Avatar
    James says:

    I’m visiting Florence this October and didn’t know about the Ponte Veccio. Your pictures with the reflection are perfect, I hope the river is calm when I visit! The little fact about the window being expanded for Hitler is very interesting. I wonder if all the couples who left lovelocks on the bridge broke up after they were removed?

    • melbtravel
      melbtravel says:

      You will have such a great time in Florence it is full of so much history and things to do. I never thought about the couples and bridge but it is a good point>

  24. Avatar
    Sandy N Vyjay says:

    These are some really interesting facts about the Ponte Vecchio Bridge. When we were in Florence and set our eyes on this beautiful bridge and the view of the city, we were not aware of these. Otherwise, we would have looked at the bridge with a different perspective. Hope to get back there again armed with these tidbits.

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