Ponte Vecchio

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Ponte Vecchio over the ,
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Ponte Vecchio over the Arno, Florence

The Ponte Vecchio, literally Old Bridge, is a famous medieval bridge over the Arno, in Florence, Italy, noted for having shops (mainly jewelers) built along it. It is Europe's oldest segmental arch bridge.

Believed to have been first built in Roman times, it was originally made of wood. After being destroyed by a flood in 1333 it was rebuilt in 1345, this time in stone. Most of the design is attributed to Taddeo Gaddi. The bridge consists of three segmental arches, the main arch has a span of 30 meters, the two side arches each span 27 meters. The arches' rise is between 3.5 and 4.4 meters, and the rise-to-span ratio approximately 1:5.

It has always hosted shops and merchants (legend says this was originally due to a tax exemption), which displayed their goods on tables after authorisation of the Bargello (a sort of a lord mayor, a magistrate and a police authority).

It is said that the economic concept of bankruptcy originated here: when a merchant could not pay his debts, the table on which he sold his wares (the "banco") was physically broken ("rotto") by soldiers, and this practice was called "bancorotto" (broken table; possibly it can come from "banca rotta" which means "broken bank"). Not having a table anymore, the merchant was not able to sell anything.

In order to connect the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence's town hall) with the Palazzo Pitti, in 1565 Cosimo I de Medici had Giorgio Vasari build the famous "Vasari corridor" above it. To enforce the prestige of the bridge, in 1593 he prohibited butchers from selling there; their place was immediately taken by gold merchants. The corporative association of butchers had monopolised the shops on the bridge since 1442.

During World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was not destroyed by Germans during their retreat of August 4, 1944, unlike all other bridges in Florence. This was allegedly because of an express order by Hitler. Access to Ponte Vecchio was, however, obstructed by the destruction of the buildings at both ends.

External links

he:פונטה וקיו it:Ponte Vecchio nl:Ponte Vecchio pl:Most Złotnikw

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