Ponte Vecchio (1345) Florence, Italy
The iconic Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”), the oldest of Florence’s six bridges, is a medieval stone segmented arch bridge across the Arno River. The present bridge dates from the 1300s but it replaced several earlier bridges dating back to Roman times.
The bridge consists of three segmental arches: two side arches spanning 27 metres (89 ft) each and a main central arch spanning 30 metres (98 ft) and rising 4.4 metres (14 ft) above the Arno.
From its earliest days the bridge was lined with shops including butchers, fishmongers and tanners. However, in 1593 these were replaced by jewellers and goldsmiths on foot of a decree made by Duke Ferdinand I reputedly because of the stench and waste caused by those trades.
In 1565 a corridor was constructed above the shops as a private passageway for Duke Cosimo I d’Medici so that he wouldn’t have to use the crowded bridge to cross between palaces on either side of the river. Named the Vasari Corridor after its designer the passageway features panoramic windows and part of it is used as an art gallery.
The bridge has endured numerous fires, floods and other dangers over the centuries. In 1944 during the Second World War the retreating German Forces blew up all Florence’s bridges except the Ponte Vecchio instead blocking access to it with rubble from demolished buildings at both ends. Two decades later the bridge survived a great flood in 1966. The traders shops were flooded and much of their merchandise was washed away.
It survives today as one of the world’s most famous bridges.