The bridge spans the Arno at its narrowest point where it is believed that a bridge was first built in Roman times, when the via Cassia crossed the river at this point. The Roman piers were of stone, the superstructure of wood. The bridge first appears in a document of 996. After being destroyed by a flood in 1117 it was reconstructed in stone but swept away again in 1333
During World War II, the Ponte Vecchio was not destroyed by Germans during their retreat of August 4, 1944, unlike all other bridges in Florence. This was allegedly because of an express order by Hitler. Access to Ponte Vecchio was, however, obstructed by the destruction of the buildings at both ends, which have since been rebuilt using a combination of original and modern design.
In order to connect the Palazzo Vecchio (Florence's town hall) with the Palazzo Pitti, in 1565 Cosimo I de Medici had Giorgio Vasari build the famous Vasari Corridor above it. To enforce the prestige of the bridge
“Some of the mightiest and most impressive Roman Bridges, which fall broadly into two groups, are to be found in Spain. On the one hand there is the long low bridge of many nearly equal arches acros a broad river valley. Of this kind are the bridges of Salamanca, Cardova, and merida. As a contrast there is themajestic majestic lofty bridge of few and unequal arches thrown across a wide rocky gorge (H. Shirley 21).”