Hidden treasures

Ponte Vecchio in Florence: no jewelers but many butchers

Historical Curiosities

Ponte Vecchio in Florence: no jewelers but many butchers

Ponte Vecchio (The Old Bridge) is one of the icons of Florence and a not-to-be-missed destination for anyone visiting the wonderful Tuscany city. Jewellery shops line its sides with their windows: a real triumph of precious glittering. But did you know that it was once the realm of butchers, fruit shops and fishmongers? Hard to believe, don’t you think? Still that’s how it was.

In 1442 a decree forced butchers to relocate to Ponte Vecchio because their trade was considered unhealthy and a source of stinky rubbish resulting from the waste of their work. So the idea came about to create a sort of ghetto and Ponte Vecchio seemed like the ideal place: carcasses and anything that could not be sold was in fact thrown straight into the River Arno. Soon, shops of erbivendoli’ (fruit and vegetable sellers) and pesciaioli’ (fishmongers) were added to the butchers.

When were, in fact, butchers replaced by jewellers? An edict in September 1593 by the Grand Duke Ferdinando I commanded that Ponte Vecchio was to be rid of the presence of the trades which according to the divisions of the corporations were considered the ‘vile arts’. What was the reason for the eviction? As is often the case, answers abound, some credible, others less so but probably more colourful. The most plausible reason seems to be a pecuniary one: jewellers could pay higher taxes than butchers. There are, however, those who argue that what Ferdinand wanted was a kind of 'restyling' intended to create a more pleasant area devoid of the ongoing shouting and yelling and the pungent odours caused by the waste thrown into the River Arno.

And that’s why meat was replaced with gold! Do you also want to know where the shops once housed on Ponte Vecchio ended up? Those selling fish were first transferred to the Old Market (the present day’s Republic Square) and then to Piazza Ciompi. Butchers were also first moved to the Old Market and then, like all other grocery shops, to the Borgo San Lorenzo area where the 'Central Market' is now located.

Interesting, don’t you think? If you want to discover other anecdotes on the Tuscan city, choose one of our Tours in Florence: the choice of itineraries and visits combined with the interesting stories, anecdotes and curiosities narrated by our professional guides will no doubt captivate you.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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