Ponte Vecchio (meaning “Old Bridge) is the oldest of Florence’s six bridges crossing the Arno. The bridge was built in 1345, replacing an earlier version that dated from Roman times. Boasting a two-story gallery, the upper corridor connects the Palazzo Vecchio and Uffizi on one side of the river, with the Palazzo Pitti on the other. The lower corridor is filled with shops, mainly goldsmiths. A break in the center of the bridge allows for stunning views of both sides of the Arno.
When the current bridge was erected in 1345 it was an outstanding engineering feat. The first segmental arch bridge in the West, it allowed for the passage of greater amounts of flood water than the more widely used Roman semicircular bridge. In 1564 the upper corridor was added to the bridge. Ordered by Cosimo I, the bridge was designed to allow the Duke of Florence to easily pass from home to office. Three decades later the shop owners, mainly butchers and fishmongers, were ordered to vacate, due to the incredible stench that emanated from their shops. These were replaced with goldsmiths, rendering the lower bridge more elegant. A bust of the most famous Florentine goldsmith, Benevento Cellini was erected on the bridge in 1900. In 1944, Ponte Vecchio was the only Florentine bridge to be spared by Nazi bombing.