In the period when Florence first came to be, the crossing point between the banks of the Arno river was just a few metres from the place where the Ponte Vecchio bridge was built. The bridge was initially made of wood, and it remained so until the 6th-7th century, despite the constant floods that destroyed the passageway. The chronicles of the time tell us about the devastating floods that occurred in 1222 and 1322 and the most violent and catastrophic one in 1333, which just by chance happened on 4 November, an unfortunate date that links it to the flood of 1966.
Not only was Ponte Vecchio the crossing that connected the two sides of the city, but it was also the bridge on which the butchers and greengrocers’ shops were initially located. In fact, the city authorities forced the "beccai" - as the butchers were called - to reside there, in order to maintain the cleanliness of the city centre and to try to eliminate the smells and scraps of meat that were transported from the streets to the Arno river. When Cosimo I built the Vasari Corridor, making it pass above the bridge, the shops were considered inappropriate. In fact, in 1593 the butchers were evicted and licenses to open a shop were granted to artisans and goldsmiths, who still maintain their jewellery and goldsmith's work in this place today.
On the terrace, halfway along the bridge, there is a fountain on which there is a bust of the great master Benvenuto Cellini, a Florentine sculptor and goldsmith.
A little-known astronomical curiosity can be found on the roof of one of the shops on Ponte Vecchio - precisely the one overlooking the bust of Cellini. The sundial dating back to 1200, is a white marble column, built to indicate the "canonical hours", meaning those of the prayers: the first hour (dawn), the third (9:00), the sixth (12:00) the ninth (15:00) and the twelfth (sunset). A plaque, worn by time, written in the "volgare" vernacular language, is located at the base of the sundial, in memory of the catastrophic flood of 1333.