Map: from Piazza della Signoria - Ponte Vecchio
Ponte Vecchio, the oldest of Florence's six bridges, is one of the city's best known images. Probably going back to Roman times with its stone pillars and wooden planks; it was built in stone but then newly destroyed by a flood in 1333. It was built again twelve years later, perhaps by Neri da Fioravante (or Taddeo Gaddi, according to Giorgio Vasari).
It is said that when Hitler came to see Florence during the occupation, he stood on the Ponte Vecchio and declared it to be the most beautiful bridge he had ever seen. "Save this bridge," he said. "And destroy all the rest." Which they did. Dozens of medieval homes and castles, all the other venerable bridges, and hundreds of shops and homes that lined the River Arno were bombed into rubble. The gold and silver shops were emptied and shipped to Berlin.
Today, the beautiful Ponte Vecchio is still lined with gold and silver shops selling the famous Florentine gold. There are hundreds of padlocks attached to the walls of the towers. Serious romantics bring a padlock to the bridge, attach it, and throw the key into River Arno, symbolizing their undying love for each other.