The first bridge was made of wood and replaced by one made of stone in 1333. A few years later it was destroyed by the river, and it was later reconstructed in 1345. The stone structure still stands to this day, making it the oldest stone bridge in Europe.
The houses built along the overpass were mainly butcher’s shops during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries but, when the court was moved to the Palazzo Pitti, Ferdinando I de’ Medici ordered the shops to be closed because of the bad odour. Since then, the shops have been owned by goldsmiths and jewellers.
The “Old Bridge” also houses the Vasari Corridor, a passageway that runs along the east side of the bridge and connects the Palazzo Vecchio to the Palazzo Pitti. This curious architectural design was commissioned by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici. It is currently a museum, but closed to the general public.
During World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence not to be mined by the German troops. Many believe that Hitler himself had given strict orders not to touch it.
The Ponte Vecchio’s love locks
As well as the bridge’s houses, the Ponte Vecchio became famous for its numerous padlocks that covered the sides of the bridge. Couples would buy a padlock, write their names on it and fasten it to railings, a symbol of eternal love.
The ritual still exists to this day, but from time to time the authorities break the padlocks for the structure’s safety.
A resting place
The Ponte Vecchio is a good place to stop and rest, if you don’t mind thousands of people walking past.
At dusk, many locals and tourists sit on the benches along the bridge to admire the sunset, while they listen to the street artists playing romantic ballads.