As jewelry and history are my work and passion, we made sure to schedule time to visit Ponte Vecchio aka the Gold Bridge, on our recent visit to Florence, Italy.
What a magical experience it was to walk across this historic bridge where for more than 425+ years, only goldsmiths and jewelers were allowed to work and sell their wares.
An enduring symbol of Florence, the Ponte Vecchio is the oldest bridge in Florence and was the only bridge across the Arno River until 1218. The current bridge was rebuilt after a damaging flood in 1345 and during the reconstruction, 43 shops were built on the bridge and were rented to artists and merchants.
During the Renaissance period, Cosimo I de' Medici ordered a covered passageway to be built on the bridge, layered over the top of the shops, as a way for the Medici family to cross the river without coming in contact with the people they ruled over.
There have been shops on the bridge since the 13th century, but by the 1400s the bridge was overwhelmed with butchers, fishmongers, tanners and other merchants who produced a lot of noise, unpleasant odors and waste.
By 1593 Ferdinand I de' Medici, decided that only goldsmiths and jewelers were allowed to have shops on the bridge. As Florence at this time was becoming a great center of Renaissance culture, the change created a must see destination for nobility and foreign visitors.
Today, the Gold Bridge is known the world over for its characteristic wooden doorways and shop windows overflowing with jewels and gold.
It is a very romantic spot in Florence for an evening stroll or to take in the great views over the river and the bridge itself. As you walk over the bridge, you can easily imagine those who also walked the bridge - such as DaVinci, Machiavelli, Galileo, Donatello and Michelangelo to name a few.
As I wandered past the shop windows dripping with golden treasures, I couldn't help but imagine what treasures these windows had displayed throughout the centuries, especially during the Renaissance through Georgian eras - the periods in time that most interest me for jewelry design and history.
My souvenir from Florence - 18K Italian Gold and Stardust Pave Hoop Earrings
The fact that this special place still exists, as it has for centuries, and is still used for selling gold and jewelry, was a very special moment for me and a memory I will treasure for a lifetime.
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