Il Ponte Vecchio
“Water under the bridge” is a common English saying. In Italian one would say acqua passata non macina più, literally translated as water gone no longer roils. Regardless the language, the water under this famous bridge is the river Arno, which it has spanned for centuries.
The Ponte Vecchio is one of my very first stops whenever I am lucky enough to find myself in Florence. Even though it’s a crowded spot — between the tourists like me snapping photos and the locals crossing into their section of town (Oltrarno) — I love spending time here. This bridge, with its gravity-defying, characteristic retrobotteghe (back shops), seems to say to me: “sei davvero qui, a Firenze…You really are here, in Florence.”
Five Quick Facts
- Il Ponte Vecchio, the Old Bridge, is believed to date back to Roman times and until the early 1200s was the only bridge spanning Florence’s Arno river. It was rebuilt after the Arno flooded in 1345, and it somehow survived the devastating flood of 1966.
- It was also the only bridge in Florence to survive Nazi destruction of World War II. It was deliberately not destroyed by the Germans as they fled the city towards the war’s end.
- The Ponte Vecchio is limited to foot traffic only. For centuries, it was home to butchers, fishmongers and tanners, however, in 1593 Ferdinand I decreed that the shops should only house goldsmiths and jewelers, for the health and well-being of all who would cross the bridge. Today the bridge is still lined by jewelry shops. (Although my favorite jewelry shop is Volteranni and Raddi just off the Ponte Vecchio.
- “It is said that the economic concept of bankruptcy originated here: when a money-changer could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the “banco“) was physically broken (“rotto“) by soldiers, and this practice was called “bancorotto” (broken table; possibly it can come from “banca rotta” which means “broken bank”). Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.” (Source)
- Often missed by visitors is Vasari’s Corridor (Corridoio Vasariano), an elevated enclosed passageway connecting the Palazzo Pitti to the Palazzo Vecchio. (It’s right under the red roof tiles in the picture below). The corridor was commissioned in 1565 by Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici, so that he could easily, and inconspicuously, access the Palazzo Vecchio (and tend to government details there) from his palace home across the river. As the name suggests, the walkway was designed by Giorgio Vasari, renowned Renaissance artist and noted as the father of art history.
I love standing on this bridge and breathing in Florence.
Above: a view of the Ponte Vecchio at sunset. Below: a view from the Ponte Vecchio at sunset.
Parole Italiane = Italian words
Il ponte = bridge
Il tramonto = sunset
La vista = view
Il fiume = river
I negozi di gioielli = jewelry shops
luogo storico = historic site