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Ponte Vecchio

Florence - Ponte Vecchio - Arno view
Florence - Ponte Vecchio - viewFlorence - Ponte vecchio - night viewFlorence - Ponte Vecchio - side view

Renowned the world over, the ancient medieval stone bridge Ponte Vecchio casts a familiar reflection over the waters of the Arno River, in Florence. Ponte Vecchio was built and destroyed many times since Roman times, although it did not begin to look as it does today until the mid 14th century following a terrible flood. The shops today host jewelers and souvenir sellers but they once hosted butchers and fishmongers, turning the bridge into a real market hub.

Composed of three wide segmental arches, Ponte Vecchio is lined on both sides by its famous shops, some of which have expanded sections, called “retrobotteghe” (“back shops”), that face out to the river, supported by wooden brackets. At each corner of the bridge was once a tower to protect it, though now only one, Torre dei Mannelli, remains. Today, a gelato shop occupies the bottom floor.

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In 1565, the architect Giorgio Vasari built a corridor to connect Palazzo Vecchio with Palazzo Pitti at the behest of Cosimo I de’Medici, who wished to avoid mingling with his subjects. Now called Vasari’s Corridor, this passage goes through the Uffizi Gallery toward the Arno River, crossing above the Ponte Vecchio, and then follows the river’s bank until it reaches the Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti.

During World War II, Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge that had not been destroyed by the German army, though it sustained considerable damage when they blocked access on both sides by bombing the nearby buildings. As a result, the surrounding structures are much more modern than the rest in the area, following a hasty reconstruction process during the 1950s.