The Arno River in the heart of Florence is spanned by three main bridges. Ponte alle Grazie, the Ponte Vecchio and Ponte Santa Trinita. All are worth your time. Looking back to the Ponte Vecchio from the other two bridges affords views you don’t want to miss as the Ponte Vecchio is crowded day and night!
Ponte alle Grazie
Originally known as Ponte di Rubaconte (Bridge over the River Rubicon) it was built before the Ponte Vecchio. This bridge dates all the way back to the 13th century and was the longest bridge in Florence until the Arno River overflowed and destroyed the bridge. Then again when the street was enlarged and again when it was destroyed by the Germans in 1944 during WWII. You can catch a bus up to either Piazzale Michelangelo or to Fiesole from here.
Ponte Santa Trinità
Cross the Arno River from Via de ‘Tornabuoni and the Santa Trinità cathedral over this bridge to the Oltrarno area of Florence on the south bank of the Arno with its unique cafes, restaurants and shops. This bridge is the oldest elliptic arch bridge in the world and the finest of all Florence’s bridges dating back to 1252. Sadly, the original was destroyed by the Nazis and this is a replica of the original. It offers the best views of the Ponte Vecchio without all those crowds.
You can’t mention Florence without also talking about the Ponte Vecchio Bridge or Old Bridge as it is also known to distinguish it from the other medieval bridge in the city! Long the most popular site besides the Duomo in Florence this bridge is often packed day and night with tourists, street artists and of course shops. The bridge, known as the “Old Bridge” was spared by the Germans and dates back originally to Roman times. Amazingly, it also survived the flood of 1966. It is a segmented arch bridge closed to car traffic thankfully!
Originally the shops, which have been here since the 13th century, that line the bridge were home to butchers, tanners and farmers not the goldsmiths, jewelers, art and souvenir dealers it houses today. Sadly, the original butchers used the river as a dumping ground. Just another reason to ban them from the bridge. The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest spot with three arches and until 1218 it was the only bridge across the Arno and the only access to the Oltrarno. The large center open piazza area is distinctive and always crowded so it is very hard to get a photograph without being jostled around. It does however frame the view in both directions and oh that view!!!! Head to the other bridges to get a nice shot. Cosimo I de ‘ Medici had a corridor constructed to travel between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Pitti Palace so he would not have to travel among the people known as the Vasari Corridor. You can see this above the shops and from Piazza della Signoria. He also banned butchers from the bridge and only goldsmiths were allowed and this remains to this day.
If you want to learn more about Florence or tips for planning your trip check out other blogs: Florence: Hidden Treasures: Piazza del Limbo; Restaurant lingo in Italy; Florence revisited ; Florence- The Historic Center ; Florence- The Renaissance ; Florence: Santa Maria Novella and the world’s most ancient apothecary