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Ponte Vecchio in Florence

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Ponte Vecchio in Florence
Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Ponte Vecchio is one of the symbols of Florence, a must for souvenir photos of the tourists visiting this beautiful city. It was the first and the oldest bridge in Florence crossing the Arno at its narrowest point. Ponte Vecchio survived to disasters of all kinds: the first construction in wood, dates back to Roman times, but was repeatedly damaged by fires and floods, like the tragic one in 1933. Then, in 1345 the bridge was rebuilt by Taddeo Gaddi a Giotto’s  disciple of Giotto, on three arches, deeper and more resistant to water. It is said that during World War II, its beauty hit also  Hitler and for this, it was the only bridge in Florence not to be bombed by the Germans in 1944.

From vegetables to gold: a brief history of the Ponte Vecchio

The bust of Benvenuto Cellini
The bust of Benvenuto Cellini

Before reaching its splendour and fame, known all over the word, Ponte Vecchiohas been the bridge of butchers and greengrocers. The city authorities ordered to butchers to gather in the shops on the bridge to protect the cleanliness of the houses in the centre and eliminate, in this way, the smells of meat from the streets. When was built the Vasari Corridor (1565) over the bridge, the workshops were considered inappropriate and it was decided (1593) the eviction of butchers to make some room for raftsmen and goldsmiths, who still continue the traditional and renowned work of jewelry, known all over the world. In fact, in honour of goldsmith, was placed on the terrace in the middle of the bridge a fountain with the bust of the great master Benvenuto Cellini, the greatest goldsmith of Florence, work by sculptor RaffaelloRomanelli.

The Vasari Corridor on Ponte Vecchio

In 1565 the architect Giorgio Vasari built for Cosimo I de ‘Medici the Vasari Corridor to link the political and administrative center of the Palazzo Vecchio, Palazzo Pitti, private residence of the Medici.

The Vasari Corridor in Florence
The Vasari Corridor in Florence

The corridor, is one kilometer long, and starts from Palazzo Vecchio, passing through the Uffizi Gallery, and over the workshops, to continue on the left bank (Oltrarno) in Palazzo Pitti. The Vasari Corridor in the days of the liberation was the only way to travel between the north and south of the city.

The innovative architecture of Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio is an example of a unique architecture, because its structure represents  the continuation of the road. It consists of three segmental arches, on both sides there are workshops in porches. For the first time in the West, the segmental arch overcame the Roman model based on round arches and began to be imitated in various Italian and European cities, as in Venice with the Rialto Bridge. At the four corners of the bridge there were four towers that controlled access: nowadays there is only the tower of the Mannelli, while the Rossi-Cerchi tower was rebuilt after the explosions of 1944.

Ponte Vecchio shops so beloved by tourists

The shops so much loved by tourists
The shops so much loved by tourists

Ponte Vecchio shops are all on the central passage and each has a back room built over the river, and  watching it from the outside, it seems to fall into the water. The glitter of gold and precious stones attracts the eyes of tourists and the pockets of the richest. At the centre of the bridge the shops are interrupted by two terraces: on the one at east there is the “Vasari Corridor”, while the other houses the monument of Benvenuto Cellini, the most famous Florentine goldsmith, made by the artist RaffaelloRomanelli. Unfortunately the trend  of padlocks  is present also in  Ponte Vecchio, so the gate of the Cellini monument has been used by lovers to hang the locks and then throw the keys into the Arno, as a symbol of their unbreakable bond. The contagious custom actually began 20 years ago by the military people of the  Academy of San Giorgio alla Costa, now you pay a fine of 50 Euros.