Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of Florence's six bridges, is one of the city's best known images. Probably going back to Roman times with its stone pillars and wooden planks; it was built in stone but then newly destroyed by a flood in 1333. It was built again twelve years later, perhaps by Neri da Fioravante (or Taddeo Gaddi, according to Giorgio Vasari).
The five arches became three and the main part was widened. The shops, housed under the porticos, first belonged to the Commune which then rented them out. But later on, towards the 15th century, they were sold to private owners and began to change through subsequent additions, raised parts and external terraces, extending towards the river and altering the original architecture in an anarchical, suggestive way.
In the 15th century these shops were greengrocers, butchers, fishmongers. But then perhaps because of their bad smell, Ferdinando I replaced them with goldsmiths, making the road more elegant and cleaner.
In 1565, Cosimo I de' Medici, Duke of Florence, had the famous Corridor built by Vasari on the upper side passing over the shops. There's a curious story about that. The Mannelli family who owned a medieval tower at the southern end, towards Pitti Palace, did not want to give the Duke right of passage. So the corridor had to be deviated, as we can still see today, around the tower.
The row of shops is interrupted in the center and the bridge opens over the Arno with two splendid, panoramic terraces. Here in 1900, they put up the bust of Benvenuto Cellini, that ingenious Florentine goldsmith and sculptor.