Ponte Vecchio means Old Bridge in Italian. It has commanding views both up and down the Arno River. Florence lies on one side, Oltrarno (across the Arno) on the other. It would be easy to write pages about Florence and Oltrano. However, their connector, the Ponte Vecchio is not to be overlooked. It is a very old and famous bridge. Stone arches support wooden shops that have been there since or even before the 1300's. Shops were added to the outside of the bridge making it picturesque as well as space saving.
Butchers, fishmongers, and grocers once habited the bridge. Butchers would cut the meat and just toss the unused parts out the window. The fishmongers did the same. The offal and entrails of the butchered animals once sailed down the Arno River amidst the river traffic. The stench was unbelievable. To make matters worse, tanners were also there.
Florence started to become the grand city of Renaissance. Even in the past nobility and artists did not mix well with the reek of offal.
The butchers, tanners, fishmongers and all their smelly shops were closed down. Gold and silver shops replaced them. To this day, you can wander over the lovely bridge gazing at the glittering jewelry, river, tourists, and unbelievable sunsets.
In the middle of the bridge is an open area that allows you to see both sides of the river. There is a water fountain there.
There's a bit more to it though. The Medici's wanted a private corridor to access their Pitti Palace with Palazzo Vecchio. Cosimo l di' Medici had the Vasari Corridor built over the shops on the bridge so they could move safely and freely from the residents of Florence that they governed.
It is said that Mussolini loved the view from the Vasari Corridor very much. So much that he persuaded the Germans not to blow the bridge up as they retreated. All the other bridges were destroyed in Florence except for this one.
It is beautiful in the morning, afternoon, and evening. My favorite time was when all the lights were coming on and it was reflecting in the water with the setting sun behind it.
So, when in Florence, the Ponte Vecchio is a must for walking, sightseeing, shopping, and of course enjoying a gelato!