Open all of the time, along the pedestrian zone south of Piazza della Repubblica towards Palazzo Pitti
Built very close to the Roman crossing, the Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge, was until 1218 the only bridge across the Arno in Florence. The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. During World War II it was the only bridge across the Arno that the fleeing Germans did not destroy. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. On November 4, 1966, the bridge miraculously withstood the tremendous weight of water and silt when the Arno once again burst its banks.
When the Medici moved from Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti, they decided they needed a connecting route from the Uffizi to the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the Arno that would enable them to keep out of contact with the people they ruled. The result was the Corridoio Vasariano, built in 1565 by Giorgio Vasari and which runs above the little goldsmiths' shops on the Ponte Vecchio.
There have been shops on Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. Initially, there were all types of shops, including butchers and fishmongers and, later, tanners, whose "industrial waste" caused a pretty rank stench in the area. In 1593, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewellers be allowed to have their shops on the bridge in order to improve the well-being of all, including their own as they walked over the bridge.
Benvenuto Cellini, a 16th century goldsmith, is honoured with a bust on the bridge. By night, the wooden shutters of the shops make them look like suitcases and wooden chests, making it a very suggestive route to take along an evening passeggiata, or stroll. Ponte Vecchio is a very romantic spot in Florence, with its great views over the river and of the bridge itself.
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