The Ponte Vecchio, or Old Bridge the bridge of jewelers and goldsmiths is one of the most charming and iconic sites in Florence. It has withstood many events and catastrophes in its history and still stands in all its glory today.
It was the only bridge across the Arno River in Florence until 1218. The current bridge was rebuilt after a flood in 1345. During World War II it was the only one in Florence that the fleeing Germans did not destroy, on Hitler’s personal orders. Instead they blocked access by demolishing the medieval buildings on each side. On November 4, 1966, the bridge miraculously withstood the tremendous weight of water and silt when the Arno once again burst its banks.
There have been shops on Ponte Vecchio since the 13th century. Initially, there were all types of shops, including butchers and fishmongers and, later, tanners, whose “industrial waste” caused a pretty rank stench in the area.
The arrival of the jewelers on the bridge
The jewelry stores on Ponte Vecchio have a long history which dates back to the XVI century when Ferdinando I de’ Medici decided that only goldsmiths and jewelers could occupy the ancient workshops for respectability purposes.He wanted to create a more pleasant walkway.
Lorenzo de’ Medici was a fond collector of gold and he was credited for influencing goldsmiths and creating work for them in the 1400s. During this period, the quality of the work done was strictly controlled and there were several rules in place; one being that artisans had to work in public view.
Over the centuries jewelers and goldsmiths have improved their abilities and created the finest manufacturing techniques for the making of the best high jewelry creations. It’s not a case if many kings and queens, including other important celebrities, come on the Ponte Vecchio to realize the jewels and the set of jewelry of their dreams.
A few shops still manufacture most of their jewels inside the ancient workshops and at the same time they sell the jewels of some of the most famous jewelry brand of the world.
Due to the long tradition of high quality craft making in Florence, the label ‘made in Florence’ has become one of the most exclusive labels, particularly for fine gold and jewelry.
The Ponte Vecchio, an Everlasting Symbol of Florence
By night, the wooden shutters of the shops create a look like suitcases and wooden chests, making it a very suggestive route to take for an evening stroll. Ponte Vecchio is a very romantic and unique spot, with its great views over the river and of the bridge itself.