The Ponte Vecchio (old bridge) crosses the Arno river near the Uffizi Gallery. The bridge's origin goes back to Roman days and parts of the original Roman stone piers are thought to be still in use. The bridge was destroyed in the 1100's and again in the 1300's. It was rebuilt in 1345.
The Ponte Vecchio has always hosted shops and in the seventeenth century, additional shops were added on to the bridge. In 1593, butcher shops were forced to vacate the bridge and gold merchants immediately moved in. Today, the bridge is lined with gold merchants and jewelry stores.
In approximately 1560, a covered, fortified passage was built over the bridge to connect the Uffizi and the Palazzo Vecchio with the Pitti Palace. This was a place to flee in case of an attack. You can clearly see the Vasari Corridor as you travel across the bridge. It offered the city leaders a way to quickly and efficiently get across the bridge to a safer location, without having to deal with the common people.
In World War II, the bridge was not destroyed by the retreating German army, even though the Germans destroyed all of the other bridges across the Arno river. The bridge access was blocked by all of the damage to the buildings at each end, so the bridge was useless for a time. It has been claimed that Hitler had forbidden his army from doing any damage to it.
We enjoyed a walk across the Ponte Vecchio. I had been looking forward to it for a long time. I particularly liked the feeling that the bridge is a living piece of history. The people selling their wares today are the current shopkeepers, who will be replaced by the next generation and the next.... The Ponte Vecchio is an enjoyable stroll in the afternoon and evening. There are many shops to browse in and street vendors abound. Be sure to see it as you make your way around Florence!