Ponte Vecchio is a medieval bridge crossing the Arno River, and one of the most famous attractions in Florence. It is the centerpiece for commerce is this tourist driven city, and the crowds from surrounding squares and Ponte Vecchio restaurants seem to funnel interminably across the bridge"s timeworn stone. The platform was originally constructed in Roman times before being destroyed by a flood in 1333. It was rebuilt as a combination of three stone arches that has stood ever since, and is the single bridge in the city spared by German soldiers during their retreat in World War II. The upper side of the bridge, known as the Vasariano corridor, was designed by Giorgio Vasari to link the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery to the Pitti Palace. The corridor runs around the medieval Manelli tower and over the bridge to the other side of Arno and was designed to be used exclusively as a passageway for the city"s Grand Dukes. Located just south of Piazza della Signoria, the bridge is within walking distance of many other attractions in Florence.
In order to enhance the Ponte Vecchio"s reputation and renown, Cosimi De Medici placed specific restrictions upon what type of vendors could sell their wares on the bridge, which had been home to butchers since its creation. With this new injunction, the butchers were quickly replaced with gold merchants, and for the past 400 years the bridge has been home to a vast collection of jewelers specializing in expensive gold and silver selections renowned the world over. The statue of Benvenuto Cellini on the bridge, one of the city"s most famous goldsmiths, cements the Florentines" association with the gold trade. Surrounded by jewels and gold, tourists can also find merchants that sell high quality leather products and handcrafted books - but you may have to dust off your haggling skills with some of these vendors.
Visitors can take lunch and people-watch at a number of scenic Ponte Vecchio restaurants, offering everything from traditional Italian pizza to Bavarian sausages and rich desserts. You can admire the rolling Arno River -a constantly murky brown, the water thick with sediment - while being serenaded by a wide variety of street musicians. And no trip to one of these Ponte Vecchio restaurants would be complete without indulging in a few spoonfuls of genuine gelato afterwards.
Bathed in gold and green, Ponte Vecchio at sunset will leave no confusion as to why it is one of the premiere attractions in Florence.