Ponte Vecchio or Old Bridge is the oldest bridge in Florence. It crosses the river Arno. The story goes that this bridge was built during the Roman times with stone and wood. Its contemporary image dates back to the 14th century. It was later redesigned after the flood in 1345. Many houses were built on the bridge which was common practice during the Middle Ages. This was the only bridge that Germans didn't destroy during World War II. It appears that Benito Mussolini invited Adolf Hitler in Florence. In his honor, Mussolini added three arched windows in the middle of the bridge where Hitler enjoyed the view and the bridge was spared.
In a way, the Old Bridge was also constructed as a defensive complex. Italy in the Middle Ages were well known for their warfare. Italians used rivers as their main element in combat. The river Arno was no exception. Even though Florence was surrounded by walls and bastions, the enemy could attack in ships along the river. Because of this, the Old Bridge had four towers. Unfortunately only one survived - the Manelli tower. Today, the well known gelateria on the ground floor of the tower is well worth checking out.
Vasari Corridor is a famous part of the bridge on the upper side. It was built by Giorgio Vasari who was ordered to do so by Grand Duke Cosimo I de' Medici. The Corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio with the Palazzo Pitti. Why did the Duke want to build this corridor? He didn't want to walk across the crowded bridge!
The interesting thing about the Old Bridge are its numerous shops. Originally, they were workshops like tanneries and butcher shops. The workshops created an awful smell and filth, so in the 16th century, Ferdinand I replaced them with goldsmiths. The butchers used to throw the meat waste in the river. In the 16th century the shops extended out of the river Arno. These new small expanded compartments were supported by wooden props named 'sporti'. The appearance of the bridge we see today is from the 17th century. The chaos of the shops and mass of people represents the charm and the identification of the bridge. Nowadays the shops sell pretty expensive antiques and jewelry. Allegedly, here is where the term 'bankruptcy' was invented.
Another interesting fact is that vehicular traffic isn't allowed on the bridge. It's exclusively a pedestrian bridge. Literally, this bridge is home to so many shops that walking becomes very colorful and lively, no wonder that cars are forbidden. This destination is extremely favored by tourists. It's like going back in time. You will feel the medieval Italy on that bridge and the renaissance spirit of Florence. Experience the energetic environment of Ponte Vecchio during the day. If you are on a vacation with your loved one, don't forget to attach a love padlock to the bridge. The legend goes that those who attach a padlock to the bridge and throw away the key into the river, their love will last for eternity.