Ponte Vecchio is the oldest segmental arched bridge in Europe. The original bridge, built in wood, was destroyed in 1117 by a flood, and some 200 years later, destroyed again by another flood. It was after this, in 1335, that the bridge we see today was rebuilt once again but this time in stone to protect it from other floods on the Arno River. Commerce on bridge began almost at the same time when the more enterprising decided to take advantage of the elevated amount of pedestrian traffic that crossed the bridge. The first merchants consisted mostly of tanners, blacksmiths and butchers.
Unfortunately, the commerce on the bridge above the Arno led to a threatening degree of pollution and in the later half of the 1300′s, when the Medici family held power in Florence, the existing merchants were replaced by the more artistic goldsmiths which also contributed to improving Florence’s prestige.
Years later, in 1565, Cosimo I of the Medici family had the famous Vasari Corridor built to connect Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti (then residence of the Medici’s). In its Uffizi trait the Vasari Corridor is used as exhibition of the Portrait Gallery of the Museum collection. Along the Ponte Vecchio, there were many padlocks locked to various places, especially to the railing around the statue of Benvenuto Cellini.
In the middle of Ponte Vecchio the corridor is characterized by a series of panoramic windows facing the Arno.