Traditional Gold and Silver on the Ponte Vecchio
One of the highlights on many of our guided tour in Florence, Italy, is of course the incredible and symbolic Ponte Vecchio. Built in 1345, the name translates as ‘old bridge’ and it is the only surviving bridge from medieval times. Spanning the river Arno at its narrowest part, it was actually saved from destruction after the Second World War on Hitler’s personal orders, and it still stands in all its glory today. Walking over this historic bridge, you’ll notice the many jewellery shops and traditional goldsmiths; their wares dazzling in the brightly lit windows. But the Ponte Vecchio wasn’t always home to such prestigious shops…
It was in 1593 that the Grand Duke Ferdinando Medici decided to have metalworkers and jewellers sell their goods on the Ponte Vecchio. He wanted to create a more pleasant walkway, avoiding the presence of pungent odours. So what exactly was he trying to get rid of? A whole load of butchers and tanners of course! The stench of rotting meat coupled with the foul substances used by tanners was just too much to bear. He wanted something more prestigious and definitely less offensive. Goldsmiths were the answer. Lorenzo de' Medici was a fond collector of gold and he was credited for influencing goldsmiths and creating work for them in the 1400s. During this period, the quality of the work done was strictly controlled and there were several rules in place; one being that artisans had to work in public view.
Now, the Ponte Vecchio is home to some of the most famous Florentine goldsmiths and silversmiths and has become one of the most important and significant areas of the city. Just like in the past, gold ornaments, accessories, buckles, brooches and hairpins are still popular today, and many of these top producers still use traditional techniques and designs. Due to the long tradition of high quality craft making in Florence, the label ‘made in Florence’ has become one of the most exclusive labels, particularly for fine gold and jewellery.
From artisan gold and silver to diamonds and precious gems, you can find a huge variety of beautiful and valuable jewellery on the Ponte Vecchio. Established in 1888, the Dante Cardini Jewellery Shop can be identified by its gorgeous flowered terraces, while Carlo Piccini is a fourth generation, family run shop that specialises in 18 carat gold and Cappelli have beautiful antique jewels. Whether you buy or just browse, the Ponte Vecchio will definitely dazzle you!
You have the opportunity to explore this wonderful bridge, as well as many other sights in Florence, with one of our private tours in Florence, Italy. If it’s the artistic history of the city that interests you, then sign up for a special Uffizi guided tour, and discover the real treasures of Florence.