This is the oldest bridge in the city and until the construction of Ponte alla Carraia in 1218, it was the only one in Firenze. In the times of the Roman Florentia there was already a wooden bridge very close to where today's bridge stands. This was substituted by one in stone in 123 BC. In the thirteenth century shops began to spring up along the bridge, the majority of which were butchers. However, because of the bad smell that wafted up from them into the Vasari corridor that ran along the top of the bridge, Grand Duke Ferdinando I had them moved elsewhere in 1593, and made sure they were replaced with goldsmiths shops (which brought in double the rent), that still line the sides of the bridge today.
In 1944, the Germans blew up all but one of the bridges over the River Arno as they retreated north after having occupied the city. Ponte Vecchio was spared, but at the expense of the surrounding areas, which were systematically razed to the ground by the Nazis.