The Ponte Vecchio–the “Old Bridge”–of Florence is the oldest bridge in the city. Constructed between 1339 and 1346, the bridge spans the Arno River, connecting the Piazza della Repubblica with the Oltrarno district.
Both a commercial space as well as a major thoroughfare, the Ponte Vecchio has been a place to browse, barter, and people-watch for more than 600 years. The bridge has hosted shops since its construction in the fourteenth century. Florentines have constructed, reconstructed, renovated, and added onto the commercial buildings on the bridge over that time, and today these structures present a fascinating conglomeration of colors, styles, and functions.
Today the Ponte Vecchio is known for its jewelers who cater to a lucrative tourist trade. For that reason I don’t recommend buying here. Most of the sparkling items in the windows are not handmade, and unfortunately many were not even made in Florence. Still, strolling the bridge and window-shopping are an integral part of the Florentine experience, so don’t miss it! When you’re ready to buy, follow the bridge to the Oltrano district, home to a flourishing neighborhood of artisans who make everything by hand.