Once bustling with Florentines purchasing meat and butchers eagerly ready to sell their finest cuts, the Ponte Vecchio holds a long-standing tradition in Florence- literally. The current bridge we see crowded with tourists today was built in 1345, but the history spans far before to documentations early as 996 in coordination with Roman occupation of the city. Crossing the narrowest point of the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio, or "old bridge", has truly stood the test of time, and the trials of it. Swept away completely by floods in 1117 and 1333, the current bridge was nearly destroyed 50 years ago in the 1966 flood. Since then a dam has been built to prevent further destruction to this essential artifact and grace to the Florence landscape.
But if you walk across the bridge today, you'll notice something pretty key- the streets are no longer deigned with the shops of butchers and leather makers. The only shops, whether new or old, are solely goldsmiths and jewelers. The reason for this is Cosimo di Medici really hated the rank smell on his walk to work, so he decreed all butchers removed from the bridge, and enacted it into law. From then on out only jewelers and goldsmiths could line the cobbled street and this tradition is carried through today.
One of these jewelers is gioielleria Miniati, next to the Pandora shop, who have been crafting handmade gifts on the Ponte Vecchio since the 1800s. One of my favorite gifts of all time, given to me this Christmas my my wonderful (and so thoughtful!) boyfriend is a hand made golden giglio, the symbol of Florence. Dainty and ornate, this golden flower hosts a world of memories, and a sentiment value unmatchable anywhere else.
Some Other Tidbits
There are a few other neat tidbits of history about the Ponte Vecchio, such as the Vasari Corridor. After building the Palazzo Vecchio, Vasari built a passage heading above the crowd so the Medici family could go from work to home (Palazzo Pitti) without having to step a foot outside. There is one mishap in the corridor though. One of the original families owning a tower on the Ponte Vecchio refused to leave to allow the Medici to build their tunnel through it. So instead, there is a small kink in the passage, making it's way around the tower, instead of through it.