The Ponte Vecchio (1345), which spans the river Arno at its narrowest point, is the third, or perhaps the fourth, bridge to have been built at this spot.
There may have been a bridge here during the days of ancient Rome. A wooden bridge is recorded as early as the tenth century. This was destroyed by a flood in 1117 and rebuilt in stone. It, too, was swept away in the disastrous flood of 1333 and replaced, in 1345, by the bridge we see today, complete with a number of small shops.
Above the shops on the east side runs the Corridoio Vasariano, which was added in 1565. From the centre of the bridge, which is free from shops, there are magnificent views up and down the river.
Since 1900 the Ponte Vecchio has been graced with a monument to the 16th century Florentine goldsmith, sculptor and writer Benvenuto Cellini (1500-71). The monument, the work of another Florentine sculptor, Raffaello Romanelli (1856-1928), takes the form of a fountain. It was sponsored by the city's goldsmiths (orafi), many of whom occupied premises on the bridge, to mark the 400th anniversary of Cellini's birth.
The shops on the Ponte Vecchio haven’t always been occupied by goldsmiths. Prior to their arrival, the premises were monopolised by butchers, but they were all turfed out in 1593 on the orders of Ferdinando I de' Medici (r. 1587-1609).