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Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy. The photo is taken from a window in Uffizi Gallery.

The Ponte Vecchio is among Florence's most famous sights, but the fact that it has survided for almost seven centuries is something of a miracle. It easily could have been destroyed in one of many floods to have ravaged the city or have fallen victim to the Nazis in 1944; it was the only bridge spared - apparently on Hitler's orders -as Field Marshal Kesseling attempted to slow the advance of the United States Fifth Army.

When floods in river Arno swept away the wooden bridge in 1117, the city fathers commissioned what was probably the first stone bridge on the site, albeit one that still had a wooden roadbed. When floods destroyed this structure in 1333, the city decided enough was enough and commissioned the present stone bridge in 1345.

At this point the crossing took its present name - which means the "old bridge" - coined by the Florentines to distinguish it from the Ponte alla Carraia (1218) upstream, then known as Ponte Nuovo, new bridge.

The bridge received a major facelift in 1565, when Grand Duke Cosimo I built the Corridoro Vassariano, a covered passageway from the Uffizi, then the Medici's offices, to the Palazzo Pitti, a newly acquired Medici palace across the river. The construction was trusted to Giorgio Vasari, a painter and writer best known for his biographies of famous Italian painters.

Last Revised October 12, 2007

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