Ponte Vecchio – the Famous Bridge in Florence

Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence

One of the famous attractions of Florence is for sure the Ponte Vecchio, which means “Old Bridge” in Italian. This is not just a bridge to get from one bank of the Arno river to the other, but also a unique architectural monument that has not changed much since the 14th century.

Bridge Construction History

The reason for the construction of the bridge in this particular place is the minimum width of the Arno River. And at first, there was a ford in this place, later replaced by a bridge. The first version of the bridge was built on stone piles with wooden superstructures in ancient Roman times. It survived during the fall of the Roman Empire but could not withstand the destructive power of the water that overflowed its banks and collapsed in 1117.

The reconstructed bridge was built entirely of stone. However, he could not stand against the riot of the elements. In 1333, a severe flood left only a couple of central piles in place.

Ponte Vecchio Bridge

The bridge in the form that we can see it now was built in 1345 by Neri di Fioravanti. The architect changed the outlines of the bridge, creating a solid and at the same time graceful construction consisting of three arches. The length of the central arch is 30 meters, and the side arches are 27 meters.

In the middle of the 15th century, a decision was made to free the streets of Florence from the stench resulting from the meat trade. As a result, all the butcher shops moved to the Old Bridge, turning it into a medieval butcher’s supermarket. However, the number of butchers in the city outweighed the length of the bridge. And then they started adding shops, which protruded from both sides of the bridge, hovering above the water.

And literally one hundred years later, goldsmiths came to the place of the butchers, and by the beginning of the 17th century the bridge received its second name – the Golden Bridge. In the center, the buildings form two open panoramic platforms overlooking the river.

Bridge i Florence

In 1556, an unusual building was designed by the architect Giorgio Vasari by order of the duke. A kilometer-long corridor passed over the bridge and the buildings standing on it, which later received the author’s name. As a result, the ruler could quickly get from the Palazzo Vecchio, where he worked, to the Palazzo Pitti, where he lived. And thanks to unique dormer windows, he could monitor the situation in the city.

Panoramic view on Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence

In 1938, Adolf Hitler visited Florence. By his arrival in the central part of Ponte Vecchio, a panoramic observation platform with large windows was equipped. From it, one could admire a picturesque view of the river and other city bridges. During World War II, the life of the bridge was threatened during the retreat of the German army.

Ponte Vecchio during World War II

By this time, the rest of the bridges in Florence were destroyed. Some suggest that it was Hitler who ordered to save this bridge. Others are inclined to the heroic feat of the Resistance fighters who managed to recapture the last crossing. But be that as it may, Ponte Vecchio survived.


Even though the construction of the bridge has proven its strength over the centuries, in 1966, the strongest Florentine flood significantly ruined it. The storm hit the city. The water rose to the very windows and shattered shop windows with destructive force, carrying debris further downstream. The jewelry stores were badly damaged, but the bridge survived.

The western side of the bridge is famous for the bust of Benvenuto Cellini, a famous artist and jeweler. The bust was created by Raphael Romanelli and installed in May 1901.

Benvenuto Cellini statue at Ponte Vecchio Bridge, lovers' lockers

Locals and guests of the city adapted the fence around the sculpture for the so-called “locks of love.” The tradition appeared relatively recently, thanks to the initiative of the owner of the lock shop located at the end of the bridge. Lovers, coming to the bridge, get a lock, hang it on it, and close it with a key thrown into the river. They say it symbolizes eternal love. Such customs are an example of how mass tourism can negatively affect historical values. The authorities regularly have to remove thousands of closed locks, as they are damaging the structure of the ancient bridge.

Lovers' lockers at Ponte Vecchio Bridge

To preserve the cultural value of the city, a fine of 50 EUR was introduced for each new locker. And then their number drastically decreased.

Ponte Vecchio in Our days

jewelry stores at Ponte Vecchio Bridge

Until 1957, there were only six bridges in Florence. Today there are ten of them. Nine of them were reconstructed and rebuilt several times, especially after the war. Only Ponte Vecchio preserved its original form from the Middle Ages to today.

On the Golden Bridge, there are still many shops offering customers a variety of goods, including items made of gold, platinum, and precious stones. So naturally, there are always quite a lot of people who want to see this variety. But not everyone will be able to buy something.

Golden Bridge store Florence

Passage Vasari is closed to the public today. The only key to this unique place is kept by the mysterious man Roberto Zanieri, who is not very eager to let people in. However, if you were lucky enough to still get into the treasured passage, then you could see the most extensive collection of self-portraits. And this is not counting the other paintings and murals present in it.

Embankment in Florence view of Ponte Vecchio Bridge

Just like Florence’s Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the medieval Old Bridge is the most striking symbol of the city. But, if, after visiting the bridge, you could not appreciate its appearance in the daytime, be sure to return to the embankment after sunset. You’ll fall in love with Its nighttime look.

Guide, traveler, marathon runner, journalist, creator of the site ITALY FOR ME. I live in Rome and am in love with Rome. On the subject of the article, please ask questions in the comments. I try to answer everyone at least once a day.

Your feedback, questions and comments on the topic

Your opinion is important. Please rate the article by clicking on the rating stars.