Il pittoresco Ponte Vecchio è il più famoso dei sei ponti di Firenze ed una delle immagini più riconoscibili al mondo. La struttura a tre valichi che si vede oggi, fu opera di Taddeo Gaddi nel 1345, dopo che una violenta alluvione aveva spazzato via l’anno prima quella esistente. Sopra Ponte Vecchio corre una parte del bellissimo Corridoio Vasariano. Costruito nel 1565 dal Vasari su commissione dei Medici, aveva lo scopo di mettere in comunicazione il centro politico e amministrativo a Palazzo Vecchio con Palazzo Pitti, dimora privata della famiglia. Durante la Seconda Guerra Mondiale le truppe tedesche in ritirata distrussero tutti i ponti di Firenze, risparmiando solamente Ponte Vecchio. La disastrosa alluvione che colpì poi Firenze nel 1966 invase il ponte: le sue botteghe furono sommerse dal fango ma la struttura, ancora una volta, resistette alla forza degli elementi.
The Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge) is one of the great attractions of Florence, Italy and certainly rates as one of the most famous bridges in the world. Crossing the Arno River, this spot has been the venue since Roman times for a series of five bridges. The current bridge has been in place since 1350 and was originally designed as an element of a defensive structure with towers and battlements running down both sides with an observation area in the center of the bridge. In the art of war during ancient times, the use of rivers was a major element to launch attacks. During WWII, the Ponte Vecchio was the only bridge in Florence the retreating Germans didn’t blow up.
Art historian Giorgio Vassari claims Taddeo Gaddi, a student of Giotto, designed the bridge renowned for the goldsmith’s shops that line both sides of it. These picturesque shops were originally the domain of butchers and tanners who simply dumped their waste into the river. The stench and pounding noise were so reviled they were evicted in 1593 and replaced by jewelers and goldsmiths. The new shopkeepers not only presented a pristine look but also paid higher rent. A corridor above these shops was named after the man who designed this private walkway in 1565, Giorgio Vasari. The Vasariano Corridor permitted the Medici family to move about their residences, Palazzo Pitti and Palazzo Vecchi, without mixing with the public.
The gallery on the west side of the Vasari Corridor was installed for the benefit of Adolph Hitler. The Nazi Fuhrer visited Florence on May 9, 1938 and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, in order to give Hitler and his entourage a better view of Florence il Duce, had the original windows remodeled into one large viewing gallery. Hitler may have been so impressed that he ordered his retreating German forces to leave the Ponte Vecchio intact, except for destroying buildings at both ends to clog the streets slowing down the advancing Allies.