The picture perfect Ponte Vecchio, one of the trademarks of Florence, is a sight that must not be missed when coming to Florence. The first traces of Ponte Vecchio, the oldest segmental arched bridge in Europe, dates back to the time of the ancient Etruscans. The original bridge, built in wood, was destroyed in 1117 by a flood, and some 200 years later, destroyed again by another flood. It was after this, in 1335, that the bridge we see today was rebuilt once again but this time in stone to protect it from other floods on the Arno River.
Commerce on bridge began almost at the same time when the more enterprising decided to take advantage of the elevated amount of pedestrian traffic that crossed the bridge, especially military. The first merchants consisted mostly of tanners, blacksmiths and butchers. A curious fact regarding the word bankruptcy derives from the economic activity on Ponte Vecchio. The stand, or table, that held the merchants goods was called a "banco". When a merchant was no longer able to pay his taxes, his banco was literally broken or "rotto" into pieces, therefore creating the term "bancorotto" which translated into the word "bankruptcy" in English.
Unfortunately, the commerce on the bridge above the Arno led to a threatening degree of pollution and in the later half of the 1300's, when the Medici family held power in Florence, the existing merchants were replaced by the more artistic goldsmiths which also contributed to improving Florence's prestige.
Years later, in 1565, Cosimo I of the Medici family had the famous Vasari Corridor built to connect Palazzo Vecchio to Palazzo Pitti (then residence of the Medici's).