The Ponte Vecchio – Florence, Italy

Until the close of 1080 the Ponte Vecchio was built of wood, the heavy masses of timber, tho offering no steady resistance to the stream, dividing the muddy course of the waters into a thou-sand small currents, and breaking its force. But in 1177 occurred one of those inundations which were so frequent that traces of them may still be seen on the walls of the quays. These inundations were one of the curses of Florence, and tho the evil has been, to a certain extent, cured by the construction of massive quays, they still occur in the direction of the Cascine. An at-tempt was accordingly made in the twelfth century to obviate this inconvenience by the construction of a stone bridge. This, in turn, was carried away in 1333, and Taddeo Gaddi, who had already made a name for himself by his architectural skill, was employed to build a bridge capable of resisting the highest floods. The present bridge was therefore erected in 1345, being 330 feet long by 44 wide.

With the double object of obtaining an income for the city and of introducing a novel feature, shops were built on the two pathways, which were 16 feet wide,, and these were let to the butchers of Florence, thus realizing the Eastern plan of concentrating the meat trade of a town in one place. This arrangement lasted from 1422 until 1593, but in the latter year, under Cosimo I., the “Capitani di Parte,” who had the supervision of the streets and highways, ordered that all the goldsmiths and jewelers should take the place of the butchers, and in a few months, the Ponte Vecchio became the wealthiest and most crowded thoroughfare of Florence. In order to avoid shutting out a view of the stream and interfering with the perspective, an open space had been reserved in the center, and when the Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi were connected with the Pitti Palace by means of the large covered way carried over the bridge, this space was left intact so as to afford a view of the eminence of San Miniato upon one side, of the windings of the stream on the other, and of the Cascine shrubberies and the mountains upon the horizon.