The Ponte Vecchio Bridge is one of the great icons of Florence Italy and is considered to be one of the most famous bridges in the world. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge meaning “Old Bridge”, is a medieval stone bridge built over the Arno River. It has three arches underneath and shops on top.
Butchers initially occupied these shops but now jewellers, art dealers, and souvenir sellers fill them. The Ponte Vecchio Bridge holds lots of history, stories and facts you may near have heard.
Standing on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, looking at the reflection on the water
Ponte Vecchio Bridge Facts
The picturesque bridge goes hand in hand with the Florentine people and the development of the city across the centuries. Meaning that the Ponte Vecchio Bridge has many stories to tell, some good some bad but always interesting. Just like the Tower Bridge in London England.
Here are 5 fun history facts about the Ponte Vecchio Bridge that you might enjoy.
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.
The original bridge was believed to be have built by the Romans in 996 with stone and wood. Before being destroyed twice in 1117 and 1333 by the floods that frequently sweep through Florence.
⇒ Check out Tellaro Village and see why it is the local Italian Secret
The apartments alongside the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence
The current bridge that stands there today was built in 1345 and designed by Taddeo Gaddi. A medieval Italian painter and architect. He wanted to build a bridge that could withstand being destroyed by the flood waters. He had the arches lowered which meant they used fewer pillars and allowed for the heavy water and debris to flow underneath the bridge more freely.
This seemed to have worked because in 1966 there was a catastrophic flood that hit the city. Only the shops on the bridge were damaged by the floods. The pillars underneath were hit by the large debris carried by the floodwater, but they survived.
⇒ How about taking a walking tour of Florence and learning more about this historical city?
The central part of the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence
2 – Bridge shops rented out to recoup money used
To help recoup some of the money spent on rebuilding the Ponte Vecchio bridge. The Florence government decided to rent out the shops on the bridge for additional income. The shops previously on the bridge were originally built from wood, however they would easily catch fire. So, when they rebuilt the bridge they used stone for the shops.
The shops on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge were originally rented out to butchers. But, this made the area on and around the bridge extremely dirty creating unpleasant conditions. The government didn’t like this and wanted to enforce the prestige of the bridge again. So in the year 1593, the butchers were kicked out of the shops and were prohibited from selling in the area.
In their place, the gold merchants moved into the bridge shops. Which is what currently occupies the shops today alongside art dealers and souvenir sellers. This historical fun fact is also part of the Around walking tours in Florence.
These tours are a budget-friendly way to explore Florence, and they are flexible. You can take these tours at your own pace without being restricted by the schedule of a traditional tour. I recommend them if you want to explore the Ponte Vecchio bridge history and Florence city.
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, which was created for the Grand Duke. Allowing him to be able to walk freely between his residence and the government palace. It goes from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, crossing over the Ponte Vecchio Bridge.
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 being built, one of the families refused to tear their tower down, so Vasari was forced to build a “detour” around it. You can still see the Mannelli tower today on the south side of the Arno.
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 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, to block the streets and
The shop windows on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence
5 – The Lockers of Love – A tribute to the art of goldsmithing
The bronze bust that you see on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge is of Benvenuto Cellini. Erected in 1901 to commemorate the 400th birthday of the famous 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
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 help fix this problem they were gradually removed by the government.
However, for some time when they continued removing the padlocks, they kept on multiplying. So then the government introduced a hefty fine for anyone who was caught locking anything onto the Bridge.
Today, lovers simply come to the famous bridge to touch the remaining padlocks, in hoping they can have eternal love. Which are left on the bridge around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini. 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.
Admiring the Ponte Vecchio Bridge from afar, Florence
6 – Quick Facts about the Ponte Vecchio Bridge
Small Square: There’s a small square at the centre of the bridge, which is referred to as a “Piazza,”.
Ancient Sundial: There is an ancient sundial on the Ponte Vecchio on the roof of one of the shops. It is composed of a white marble cup divided by thin columns indicating the canonical hours.
Oldest Bridges: The Ponte Vecchio is one of the oldest bridges in the whole of Italy.
Span of the arches: The Ponte Vecchio has three segmental arches. The middle arch has a span of 30 meters (98 feet), while the other 2 arches have a span of 27 meters (89 feet) across.
See the old bridge: You can see the old bridge from a small boat on the Arno River.
⇒ There are some amazing day trips that you can take from Florence with the option of having lunch and wine.
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 those who love the outdoors.
- Lake Garda: What to do in 48 hours
- Cortina d’Ampezzo: The Ultimate Ski Guide Italy
- Tellaro Fishing Village: A local Italian secret
Thank you for reading this article about the bridge, I hope you learned something new about the Ponte Vecchio Bridge.
Here are two good book 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.
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Disclaimer: All views are my own based on my own experience.