15 Interesting Facts About The Ponte Vecchio

interesting facts about the ponte vecchio

It’s one of the most iconic bridges in the world, and in this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of facts about the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, Italy.

Interesting facts about the Ponte Vecchio

1. This is why the Ponte Vecchio so famous

The Ponte Vecchio is to Florence what the Rialto Bridge is to Venice. It’s the most iconic bridge in the city, and one of the best-recognizable bridges in the entire world.

Its name literally translates to “Old Bridge” and is famous for containing a large number of shops on top of it. This was very normal in medieval times, but not so much today except for a few exceptions that withstood the test of time.

Ponte vecchio facts

2. The bridge spans an important river

The bridge is located in Florence, a city in Central Italy and the capital of the Tuscany region. It spans one of the most famous rivers in Central Italy, the Arno.

The Arno is the second-most-important river in the region after the Tiber which passes through Rome. It passes Arrezzo, Florence, Empoli, and Pisa (where the famous tower is located), before releasing into the Tyrrhenian Sea at Marina di Pisa.

River Arno in Florence

3. An Ancient Roman road used to cross the river at this point

The bridge crosses the Arno River at its narrowest point. This made it a very suitable location to build a bridge, and the Romans must have realized this as well.

That’s why it’s almost certain that a bridge was located on the location of the current Ponte Vecchio in the Roman Times.

There is no hard evidence for this fact, but we do know that one of the major Roman roads, the Via Cassia, which ran from Rome to the city of Genua in Northern Italy, crossed the river at this point.

Via Cassia
The Via Cassia in green / NielsF / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

4. The original bridge was first mentioned in 996

The Ponte Vecchio is really old. It was first mentioned in a document dating back to the year 996. This makes sense because it’s assumed that the Romans already built piers made of stone.

It’s very likely though that the bridge itself was made of wood, as was the case with other Roman bridges such as London Bridge for example.

5. Why is it called the Ponte Vecchio?

Since the Ponte Vecchio literally translates to “Old Bridge“, we can simply assume that it’s because, well, it’s an old bridge right?

Well, there’s another reason it was called this way. In the year 1218, a wooden bridge named the “Ponte Alla Carraia” was constructed right next to it and was referred to as “Ponte Nuovo,” which literally translates to “New Bridge.”

Therefore, the old bridge was being referred to as “Ponte Vecchio” ever since.

Ponte vecchio and river

6. The original bridge was destroyed multiple times

The fact that the bridge is old doesn’t mean that the bridge we find no is the original bridge. The Ponte Vecchio was destroyed multiple times, including during a flood in 1117 and another flood in 1333.

it was finally constructed in its current form, completely made out of stone and including multiple shops on top of it, in the year 1345.

Georgio Vasari, an Italian Historian, has credited Taddeo Gaddi, a medieval painter, and architect, with the design of the bridge.

7. One of the corners of the bridge still has a guard tower

Bridges weren’t just built to cross a river, it was also a form of defense and checkpoint. That’s why 4 guard towers were built on the corners of the Ponte Vecchio.

This guard tower named the “Torre dei Mannelli” is the only of the 4 guard towers that wasn’t demolished over the centuries.

Torre dei Mannelli
Torre dei Mannelli / Sailko / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5

8. There’s a little square at the center of the bridge

One of the most remarkable facts about the Ponte Vecchio is that it contains a little square, referred to as a “Piazza,” at its center.

This remarkable design element has been described by Renaissance poet “Leon Battista Alberti” as “a prominent ornament in the city.

Ponte Vecchio Piazza
Ponte Vecchio Piazza / Joseph Cesare / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

9. How long is the Ponte Vecchio?

The Ponte Vecchio is a stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge and consists of three segmental arches. The main arch has a span of 30 meters (98 feet) while the other 2 arches have a span of 27 meters (89 feet).

The total span over the Arno River is 32 meters (105 feet) and the rise of the arches is between 3.5 and 4.4 meters (11.5 to 14.5 feet).

Ponte vecchio arches

10. The back shops were only added in the 17th century

If you look closely at an upriver point of view you can see that apart from the main shops, which are built on top of the bridge, it also contains back shops that literally hang onto the bridge.

These shops weren’t part of the original design of the bridge and were only added in the 17th century.

Ponte Vecchio backshops

11. The Vasari Corridor connects 2 important buildings in Florence

One of the most astounding constructions near the Ponte Vecchio is the Vasari Corridor, designed by Giorgio Vasari himself on orders of the “de’ Medici’s.”

Vasari Corridor Ponte Vecchio
The Vasari Corridor / Sailko / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0

This corridor, which runs on top of the Ponte Vecchio, was built in 1565 and connects the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence’s town hall) with the Palazzo Pitti.

After its construction, butchers were banned from the bridge to clean things up and only jewelers were allowed, a policy which still stands today!

Inside the Vasari corridor
Inside the Vasari Corridor / Wiki Commons

12. Did Hitler prevent the Ponte to be destroyed?

All the bridges in Florence were destroyed during World War II, except for one, the Ponte Vecchio! The German army destroyed all other bridges as the British 8th Army advanced on the city on August 4, 1944.

This remarkable event didn’t happen by chance. It’s believed to have been the order of Hitler himself, which commanded to spare the Ponte Vecchio.

In order to compensate for this order and attempt to halt the advance of the British, multiple buildings next to the bridge were destroyed, which then formed an obstruction.

Ponte Vecchio in August 1944
Ponte Vecchio in August 1944 / Wiki Commons

13. Perhaps this is the reason Hitler didn’t want to see the bridge destroyed

So why did Hitler specifically ordered not to destroy the Ponte Vecchio? We know he was fond of architecture, but there must be something more to it, right?

Well, Hitler actually visited Florence and passed through the Vasari Corridor. The original windows were relatively small and didn’t provide a nice view of the Arno River.

It was on the orders of Benito Mussolini that larger windows were installed so Hitler could enjoy the amazing view during his visit.

Hitler must have been really impressed by this gift that he ordered not to destroy the Ponte Vecchio!

Windows in vasari corridor
Windows in the Vasari Corridor / Wiki Commons

14. The bridge was almost destroyed by a flood in 1966

Floods didn’t just destroy the bridge during the Middle-Ages, the Ponte Vecchio was nearly destroyed in modern times as well.

The Great Flood of Florence happened in 1966 and not just destroyed millions of masterpieces of art and rare books, but also cost the lives of 101 people.

Miraculously, the Ponte Vecchio survived this tragic event. Luckily, we can still enjoy this amazing bridge and its picturesque surroundings today!

facts about the Ponte Vecchio

15. The center of the bridge has a bust of a famous sculptor

Florentine sculptor and master goldsmith Benvenuto Cellini was born 400 years earlier in the year 1900. Therefore, the city of Florence wanted to commemorate him with a sculpture that was to be placed in the center of the Ponte Vecchio.

Florentine sculptor Raffaello Romanelli created a bronze bust of the sculptor and it was placed on top of a fountain on the bridge.

Between 2005 and 2006, about 5,500 padlocks, known as love locks were removed from the railings around the bust. These were attached to it as a token of love and unity between lovers.

The City of Florence didn’t like it and lovers have been forced to attach their love locks somewhere else ever since!

Cellini bust ponte vecchio
Bust of Benvenuto Cellini / JoJan / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

This concludes the ultimate list of facts about the Ponte Vecchio, one of the most fascinating and iconic bridges in the entire world!

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