Bridges of the Arno: Ponte Vecchio

The Ponte Vecchio in the late afternoon sun from Ponte Santa Trinita

A Larger view of the Ponte Vecchio in the morning from Ponte Santa Trinita

A view of the Ponte Alla Carraia From Ponte Santa Trinita


Ponte Vecchio bathed in sunlightBust of Benevenuto Cellini on the Ponte VecchioAlong with the Duomo thePonte Vecchio is one of the landmarks that defines Florence. Although perhaps the only aspect of the bridge with true Renaissance significance is the bust of Benevenuto Cellini, (picture to the right)the history of the Ponte Vecchio is intimately intertwined with the history of Florence and its rulers. Dating back to Roman times, until 1218, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge across the Arno. Today its role in transport is considerably reduced, as the bulk of the commercial traffic is handled by sister bridges, including the Ponte Alla Carraia and the Ponte Santa Trinita. Interestingly, even the Germans seemed to appreciate the significance of this bridge; it was the only bridge not destroyed in their retreat in the closing phase of World War II. The shop has been a hub of commercial activity since the 13th century, Goldsmiths have occupied the Ponte Vecchio since the 1500'sbeginning as a center for fishmongers, butchers, and tanners. Apparently the latter activity in particular (or rather the stench and discharge from the tanneries) drew the ire of the MedicisThe Gold Shops at Night in the nearby palace, so in 1593 a decree was issued that banned all commerical activities except for goldsmiths on the bridge. And it has been that way ever since. The bridge, covered on both sides by shops (photo to the left) that close up like large suitcases at night (photo to the right) is now a teaming tourist area, the primary point of access between the city proper and Oltrarno, the old city and artists' quarter. Another interesting feature is the passageway above the shops on the east side, a passage that connected the old Medici Palace (Palazzo Vecchio) to the new Pitti Palace. [If you select one of these two highlighted links, be certain to hit your browser's "Back" button to return to this page]