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Many centuries ago, bridges served many purposes. Aside from getting you over water, it was common for medieval bridges to have chapels and shops built over them, and many were fortified with towers and ramparts because bridges served important entry points to the cities. The Ponte Vecchio or the “Old Bridge” over the Arno River, in Florence, Italy, is a medieval stone bridge noted for still having shops built along it.

The first bridge over the Arno River was probably built by the Romans in stone and wood and is mentioned in a document that dates from 996. The bridge was swept away in a flood in 1117 and was rebuilt in stone only to be destroyed again by another flood in 1333, save for its two central piers. Consequently, the bridge was rebuilt again, twelve years later, designed by the Italian painter and architect Giotto’s most talented pupil Taddeo Gaddi, who was a painter and architect in his own right.

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