Ponte Vecchio: Bridge of Gold

May 30, 2012 by

Sightseeing, Things To Do, Top Attractions, Travel Tips

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

Ponte Vecchio in Florence

There is something special about a bridge with shops along it. There are only four such bridges remaining in Europe: the Rialto Bridge in Venice, the Pulteney Bridge in Bath, England, the Kramer Bridge in Erfurt, Germany, and the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. During World War II the Nazis blew up every bridge in Florence except, thankfully, the Ponte Vecchio. I’m not sure if the magic comes from the dollhouse feeling these bridges give because you can see their exposed backs, perched precariously above the water, or whether it’s just the sense of difference from a normal shopping street because you know you’re crossing a river. But I know this sense of magic is shared by other people –you’ll always find a crowd on the Ponte Vecchio.

The bridge is the major pedestrian thoroughfare across the Arno River in the historic part of Florence but the gold and silver shops block your view of the river until you suddenly emerge on the middle of the bridge and can see up and down the Arno to the countryside beyond. Once the bridge was lined by butchers’ shops and I’m guessing the river below did not smell or look good as it would have been used for waste disposal.

When the Medici built their private passageway (Vasari Corridor) from office to home, passing over the shops on one side of the bridge, they didn’t want the bad smells and banished the butchers, replacing them with goldsmiths. To this day the law states only gold and silversmiths may occupy the bridge. A more recent tradition is the locks of love, padlocks that lovers attach to a fence in the middle of the bridge to seal their love. Sunset is a particularly popular time to stand in the gap between shops in the middle of the bridge, eat gelato and watch the rowers on the river below, the evening traffic on the next bridge along, and the shadows shift and change as the sun sets. It is magical, I promise.

Another bridge of interest in the Ponte Santa Trinita

Philippa B.

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