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The Ponte Vecchio is one of the symbols of the city of Florence and one of the most famous bridges in the world. It crosses the Arno river just downstream of the area where the river naturally presents the narrowest river bed within the city of Florence in its stretch upstream of the Cascine. The area in question is to the Canottieri under the Uffizi. In ancient times there was a ford .
The Ponte Vecchio is composed of three wide lowered arches (height / width ratio 1: 6); for the first time in the West it was passing the Roman model which provided for the exclusive use of crossings to all sixth (ie semicircular arches) in the case of a very long bridge required a large number of arches, creating potential hazards in the event of floods (due to the easy obstruction of narrow crossings) or a very marked slope, an equally undesirable solution (typical cases: the Ponte della Maddalena , near Borgo a Mozzano , the Ponte Fabricio , in Rome ). The example made school, with a similar lowered arcade was built in the sixteenth century the Rialto Bridge in Venice and many others. The Alconétar bridge , in Spain , offers a much older example of the use of lowered arc crossings, but it does not manage to avoid the problem of clogging the river bed with the arch support stacks, since it is a bridge with numerous small crossings, similar to the traditional bridges with round arches.
Another typical feature, much more evident to the tourist but less revolutionary, is the passage flanked by two rows of artisan shops, obtained in ancient arcades then closed, which made it famous, as if it were the continuation of the road. The shops of Ponte Vecchio all overlook the central passage, each with a single window closed by thick wooden doors, and often have a back room built cantilever over the river and supported by corbels (or "sporti").
At the four corners of the bridge there were as many towers that controlled the access: of these only the Mannelli tower remains, while the Rossi-Cerchi tower was rebuilt after the explosions of 1944 .