One of Florence's most photographed landmarks, the Ponte Vecchio is Florence's most famous bridge. The Ponte Vecchio, which spans the Arno River from Via Por Santa Maria to Via Guicciardini, is also Florence's oldest bridge, having been spared from bombing during World War II.
The Ponte Vecchio was built in 1345 to replace a bridge that had been destroyed in a flood. Initially, the shops on both sides of the bridge were favored by butchers and tanners, who would throw their flotsam into the Arno, a practice which would create a stinking cesspool in the water below. In 1593, Grand Duke Ferdinando I decided that these trades were "vile," and permitted only goldsmiths and jewelers to set up shop on the bridge.
Since that time, the Ponte Vecchio has been known for its gleaming gold shops, which overflow with rings, watches, bracelets, and all kinds of other jewels. Ostensibly, buyers are able to bargain with the gold sellers on the Ponte Vecchio, and sometimes bargains can be had here. Since this is a high tourist area, however, prices are often inflated. Shop around before giving in to the temptation.
Travel tip: Note that the popular bridge – which is typically packed with tourists – is also a prime target of pickpockets. Be mindful of your belongings when browsing the baubles.