What’s in this guide?
- Getting around
- Ponte Vecchio history and facts
- Things to do near Ponte Vecchio
- Restaurants, bars and shops near Ponte Vecchio
Whether you’re visiting Florence for the day or planning to spend a long weekend in the city, the best way to get there is by train. Santa Maria Novella is the city’s central station, conveniently located near Florence’s main attractions, including Ponte Vecchio.
With regular services departing from Santa Maria Novella across Tuscany, it’s easy to visit Florence for the day. Take the train from Bologna, Pisa, Lucca, Siena or Arezzo to discover what Tuscany’s capital has to offer, from fascinating history and culture to world-class restaurants, shopping and nightlife.
Staying elsewhere in Italy? The fastest trains from Rome and Milan will get you to Florence in under 2 hours, so travelling between some of Italy’s most popular destinations is quicker than you might think!
Once you arrive at Santa Maria Novella, you can get to Ponte Vecchio on foot in just 15 minutes. This iconic and ancient bridge is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Florence, offering plenty of photo opportunities, so be sure to add it to your itinerary.
Ponte Vecchio history and facts
Ponte Vecchio translates to ‘old bridge’. True to its name, it is the oldest surviving bridge in Florence. There are six bridges over the River Arno in Florence. Still, the Ponte Vecchio is the most famous, thanks to its unique design and rich history.
Walking via the Ponte Vecchio is the quickest way to reach attractions like the Pitti Palace, Basilica of Santo Spirito and many shops, restaurants and bars in the Oltrarno district. Cross the Ponte Vecchio to arrive in the heart of Oltrarno in under 5 minutes. Or why not take a leisurely stroll and admire the medieval architecture, independent shops and river views along the way?
How old is the Ponte Vecchio?
It’s unclear when the Ponte Vecchio was first built, as the bridge has undergone numerous reconstructions throughout its long history. But the first records of a bridge in this location date back to Roman times. It is thought that Emperor Hadrian commissioned a bridge here around 123 AD to connect the Roman Florentia with Via Cassia Nuova.
Some parts of the Ponte Vecchio seen today were built in 1345, so it’s widely considered a medieval bridge. The architect who designed the Ponte Vecchio is debated, but it was probably Taddeo Gaddi or Neri di Fioravanti.
During the medieval period, many shops and stalls lined the bridge. Initially, farmers, butchers and tanners sold their produce here. In 1595, a decree was passed that only allowed jewellers and goldsmiths to trade on the Ponte Vecchio. This is still the case today, except for art and souvenir shops.
The Ponte Vecchio connects the city centre at Via Por Santa Maria to Via de’ Guicciardini in the Oltrarno district, on the opposite side of the river. If you’re sightseeing in Florence’s historic centre, it takes less than 10 minutes to walk from Piazza del Duomo to the Ponte Vecchio, or just 3 minutes from Piazza della Signoria.
The closest neighbouring bridge to the Ponte Vecchio is the Ponte Santa Trinita, built between 1566 and 1569 by Bartolomeo Ammanati. This is the oldest elliptical arch bridge in the world. On the opposite side of the Ponte Vecchio, you’ll find the 1953 reconstruction of the Ponte Alla Grazie (originally the Ponte Alla Rubaconte, built in 1227).
How long is the Ponte Vecchio?
The Ponte Vecchio is 95 metres long. It has three segmental arches and is made from stone.
The bridge is fully pedestrianised, making it the ideal walking route if you’re heading to Oltrarno. It connects many of the city centre’s main attractions – including Palazzo Vecchio and the Uffizi Gallery – to the Pitti Palace on the opposite side of the river.
In 1565, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo I de’Medici, commissioned a passageway between the Palazzo Vecchio and Pitti Palace. This allowed the Duke and his family to move quickly between their residence and the government buildings. The enclosed passageway is the Vasari Corridor, named after the architect, Georgio Vasari.
The Vasari Corridor is around a kilometre long, weaving around the Torre dei Manelli and across the façade of the Church of Santa Felicità. It also runs above the Ponte Vecchio, where you can enjoy stunning views of the River Arno or watch the hustle and bustle of pedestrians walking along the bridge below.
Things to do near Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio is conveniently located near many of Florence’s main attractions. If you’re planning to visit the ancient bridge, why not tick a few of these must-see locations off your itinerary en route?
The world-famous Uffizi Gallery is a 3-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio. Here you can see artworks by medieval European and Renaissance masters, from Botticelli to Michelangelo, alongside ancient sculptures from the Medici collection.
The former town hall of Florence, Palazzo Vecchio, is now a museum. Pay a visit to discover the city’s civic and political history. This stunning palace is a 4-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio.
Piazza della Signoria
The Palazzo Vecchio towers over the Piazza della Signoria. There are many smaller Renaissance palaces, historical buildings and sculptures to marvel at in this enormous square. Piazza della Signoria is a 4-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio.
Basilica of Santo Spirito
The Basilica of Santo Spirito, remodelled by Filippo Brunelleschi in 1428, is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture. The church contains some rare examples of late Gothic art and sculptures from the 11th to 15th centuries. It’s worth taking a short detour here from Ponte Vecchio, just 7 minutes away on foot.
The Pitti Palace is best known for being one of the Medici residences but is now home to multiple museums, displays and collections, including Renaissance paintings and contemporary art. Walking from the Ponte Vecchio, you’ll reach the palace in 5 minutes.
Once you’ve enjoyed the picturesque views of the Ponte Vecchio, head to Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic vista over Florence. The iconic viewpoint is a 20-minute walk from Ponte Vecchio.
Restaurants, bars and shops near Ponte Vecchio
After visiting Ponte Vecchio, why not enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the many restaurants nearby, or stop for a late-afternoon drink in one of the bars near this ancient bridge?
If you’re planning to treat yourself during your trip to Florence, browse the independent shops on the bridge selling jewellery, art and souvenirs, or head to Oltrarno to find unique treasures.
Best restaurants near Ponte Vecchio
There are plenty of restaurants near the Ponte Vecchio where you can relax and refuel after sightseeing. Some of the best spots on the city centre side of the bridge include:
- Trattoria Ponte Vecchio
- Buca dell’Orafo
- Osteria delle Tre Panache
- Il Ricettario
- Trattoria Antico Fattore
- Osteria Vecchio Vitolo
- Desgusteria Italiana degli Uffizi
- Caffè del Oro
On the Oltrarno side of the bridge, stop for coffee, lunch or dinner at:
- Base V Juicery
- Ditta Artiginale
- Il Panino de Chianti
- Amici di Ponte Vecchio
- Gino’s Bakery
- Trattoria Vasari
- Trattoria de' Guicciardini
- La Galleria Il Vino dei Guelfi
Best bars near Ponte Vecchio
Sip cocktails overlooking the River Arno or enjoy a glass of locally-produced wine at one of these bars near the Ponte Vecchio:
- Le Volpi e l’Uva
- Golden View
- Enoteca Pitti Gola
- Bulli e Balene
Best shops near Ponte Vecchio
You can pick up a special souvenir, locally made artwork or unique piece of jewellery from the Ponte Vecchio when you visit, as there are many shops on the bridge. But you’ll also find plenty of shops nearby in Florence city centre and Oltrarno.
Some of the best boutiques selling clothing, shoes and leather goods near the Ponte Vecchio include:
- La Pelle
- Rive Gauche
- 9 Rosso
Explore the artisan workshops of Oltrarno, selling ceramics, art, stationery and books. Those nearest to the Ponte Vecchio are:
- Galleria Ponte Vecchio Ceramiche
- La Bottega de Mosaico
- Il Papiro
- Giunti al Punto Librerie
Check out our dedicated guide for more information on the best places to shop in Florence.
Travelling by train to Florence?
If you're considering spending some time in Florence, why not take the train? Travelling by train to Florence is easy due to the high-speed rail connections operated by Trenitalia and Italo. You can travel to Florence from some of the most popular cities in Italy, including Milan to Florence (1h 50m), Rome to Florence (1h 17m) and Venice to Florence (1h 59m).
Need more information about travelling to Florence by train? Check out our dedicated page to trains to Florence.