2 Nov 2012

Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy

Florence's oldest bridge is the aptly named Ponte Vecchio (meaning "old bridge").  The structure we see today was built in 1345, but it is not the original bridge to be built there.  The first bridge, which dated back to the Roman Empire days, was destroyed in a flood in 1333.

The bridge was built with houses running the length of it, a common practice during the time in Europe.  Originally they butchers, tanners and the like sold their wares from these structures on the bridge, dumping their refuse into the Arno river below.  Eventually, they were replaced with goldsmiths.

The corridor that runs along the top of the bridge was added around 1565 by Cosimo I de'Medici.  It connects Palazzo Pitti with Palazzo Vecchio and was constructed as a way in with the Medici could privately travel between the two.

During World War II, all the bridges in Florence were destroyed, with the exception of the Ponte Vecchio, which Hitler is said to have spared because it was too beautiful to destroy.

Today the bridge is still home to many jewellers and other merchants, from the extravagant to the touristy souveniers. In the centre of the bridge, on either side, you will find three arches which overlook the Arno river.  These are usually packed with photograph-taking tourists.

My favourite time to walk along the bridge is in the early morning hours, particularly in the winter, outside of tourist season.  Though the shops may not be open, the normally busy bridge is mostly void of people and you can truly appreciate the architectural beauty of the bridge.

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