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5 things you didn’t know about Ponte Vecchio

Posted by GLflorence on January 30, 2020

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Ponte Vecchio is one of the most emblematic symbols of Florence. This massive bridge has a long and difficult story, since it suffered various floods, the last one being in 1333. This fascinating monument has a lot to say, here’s 5 curious facts you may not know!

1. The innovative method of the lowered arches 

If you found yourself close to the Arno river, you’ve certainly stopped to admire the peculiar shape of Ponte Vecchio. Well, you should know that its arches were not a stylistic choice: they saved the bridge from many floods! Ponte Vecchio is the first construction to be realized with lowered arches, stopping the use of the more common Romanesque ones. This let the constructor Taddeo Gaddi build 3 spans instead of 5, letting the debris pass without destroying the bridge itself. From there on the bridge remained the one we see today: no floods could destroy it anymore! 

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2. From butchers to goldsmiths

Ponte Vecchio was at first used as a market by butchers, who sold their meat and threw all the animal wastes into the river to avoid bad smells in the streets. They were the ones who started to build small houses on the sides of the bridge in order to have more space to store and cut the meat. When Vasari’s corridor was built, the business changed to goldsmiths, a more appropriate commerce for noble people. Goldsmiths are still selling their treasures on the old bridge, but this architectural beauty has become more a walking street than a trading place. 

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3. The Mannelli tower 

This is the only tower left - there were 4 at the beginning - and it was built by Mannelli family. If you give a look at Vasari’s corridor, you’ll notice that it doesn’t pass through the tower, giving it an odd turn instead. The reason of this choice is that the Mannelli family didn’t want to leave the passage open to Cosimo I De’ Medici, who took his revenge afterwards.  

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4. Hitler decided not to destroy it

Dealing with Ponte Vecchio’s windows, they are usually small and rounded. At the center of Vasari’s corridor, though, there are some bigger and rectangular ones. They were requested by Benito Mussolini in 1939 to let Adolf Hitler enjoy the city view over Ponte Santa Trinita. Legend says that the Fuehrer was so fascinated by this landscape that decided not to burn it down in 1944, when the city suffered the war retreat, which caused the complete destruction of Por Santa Maria street and Guicciardini street, reconstructed only after the war. 

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5. The sundial you didn’t notice

Yes, there is space for a sundial too. Ponte Vecchio means connection between the religious and political heart of the city, trade centre, bridge and clock at the same time! The half-moon sundial is located on the top of the shop which delimitates the west terrace, where you can see 1901’s Benvenuto Cellini bust too. The sundial was collocated there in 1345 when the bridge was reconstructed. Two copies can be found in Borgo Pinti, in Ximenes-Panciatichi’s Palace and in I Tatti Villa in Vincigliata.

Want to know more about Ponte Vecchio? Join our city centre walking Tour and explore Florence with a local expert guide! There are more secrets hidden in those yellow walls, don't miss them out!

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