5 Fun History Facts about Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Florence Italy

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. 

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 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

apartments along side Ponte Vecchio Bridge

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? 

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 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.

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, 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.

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 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 

⇒ Read More: The Italian side of the Matterhorn, Breuil-Cervinia Ski Resort Italy

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. 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.

long distance view of Ponte Vecchio Bridge

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.  

Selfie on a bridge over the Arno with Pnte Vecchio bridge in the background
Me on one of the bridges across the Arno, 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 those who love the outdoors.

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.

If you liked this article on Italy, please share!

    Pinterest Ponte Vecchio Bridge Italy History

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.

“This post contains affiliate links, which means that at no additional cost to you if you click on one of the product links, we may earn a commission.”  For further details, you can view our Privacy Policy, Terms & Conditions or contact me directly. 

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

  1. 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 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. 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. 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 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. 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 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. 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. 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 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. 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 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. 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. Jitaditya Narzary says:

    Hitler was a fan! That will alarm some but nevertheless it is a great construction. I love the photographs with reflections on the water.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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 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.

  16. 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!

  17. 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!

  18. 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 🙂

  19. 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!

  20. 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 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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!

  23. 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!

  24. 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 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>

  25. 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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