The Ponte Vecchio “The Old Bridge” replaced the Roman Stone Bridge of Florence in 1345. Today it is impossible to be in Florence and not pass by it on foot, enjoying the marvellous jewellery shops that have situated on Ponte Vecchio for centuries. It is also one of the most interesting bridges that I have ever seen because of its construction and the history it carries.
The old Florence Roman Bridge which was built over the Arno river was unstable and it was destroyed many times by floods that occurred. The new design that was built 1345 lowered the arches (which you can see on the photo) and therefore, made it possible to use fewer columns. This trick allowed water to flow underneath more freely than ever before. Since the reconstruction of the Ponte Vecchio – it has never been destroyed again.
From selling meat to jewellery
The bridge was a place for butcher merchants, primarily those who were selling their goods on the streets and in the stone shops. The odour from the rancid meat was so intense, that the city authority forbade the vending of meat on Ponte Vecchio. The butcher’s shops were replaced by businesses with jewellery and to this day these jewellery shops still remain.
Would you believe it if I said that the economical concept of bankruptcy originates from Ponte Vecchio in Florence? The merchants in the medieval times who had their stalls there and couldn’t pay their debts, had their tables (“bank”) broken (rotto) into by the city soldiers. Such merchants with broken tables (bankrotto) therefore, could no longer sell their goods on the bridge.