The bridge was designed by architect and artist Taddeo Gaddi in 1345, built after the river had washed away the wooden bridge before it.
The Ponte Vecchio should really be admired from two viewpoints: from the banks of the river to appreciate its architecture, and then you should walk across it to taste its atmosphere and history.
The Medici family ruled Florence with firm force, controlling the poor locals with their reign. The family felt they were above the common folk, so they had a kilometre-long passage, known as Vasari’s Corridor, built from the Palazzio Vecchio to the Palazzo Pit. This crosses the bridge over the Arno above street level, so they would not have to mingle with the masses.
This extraordinary passage was built by Giorgio Vasari in 1565 and still exists. There is another story about the famous Ponte Vecchio. Back in the 18th century traders had to hire a table to display their wares. If they were unable to pay the fee, their tables were kicked down, known as bancarotta in Italian; banca for table and rotta for kicking.
It is thought that this is where the term ‘bankrupt’ actually comes from. At one end of the bridge is the Manelli tower, built in the middle ages to protect the bridge.
A stroll across the Ponte Vecchio is stepping back in time. It’s part of Florence’s past, but just as much part of her beauty.