On an Old Bridge

When many think of an old bridge in Italy, Ponte Vecchio in Florence comes to mind. Although the name means Old Bridge, the covered bridge crossing the Arno River and housing jewelry shops is a picturesque icon.

For me, my special old bridge is Ponte della Maddalena (Bridge of Mary Magdalene) crossing the Serchio River just south of Bagni di Lucca. Built during the medieval period, this unique walking bridge made of stone is one I had to revisit. It’s specialness is partially due to its look and location between the lands of my paternal and maternal sides of my family, but I also have pictures, postcards, and a framed etching of this bridge. Interestingly, this landmark is actually better known as Ponte del Diavolo – Devil’s Bridge.


The ancient bridge carries a legend. My research shows various versions, but with commonalities. In order to complete the bridge, whoever made a deal with the devil, but in return, the devil wanted the life of the first to cross the bridge. The devil completed the bridge, so an animal was sent across – which the devil snatched, then angrily left and never to return.



Even though this area is very scenic, like any river, heavy upriver rains can create a flood. As one can tell, even the torrent water of this late-2012 flood, the bridge remains standing.


Thanks to my second cousin for this great pic


During my recent trip to Italy, I had to see this beautiful legend, just as I last did in 1964 – including a walk to the top for a wave from afar.


The 2013 wave


The 1964 wave


Now there’s a 1964 fashion statement

devil 6 bis

My second cousin gave me this beautiful picture. Unfortunately, I don’t know the original source.


For more photographs for this wonderful landmark

Enjoy these pictures from Debra, a frequent visitor here: One, two, and three.

Cheers to the collection from Google Images.

79 thoughts on “On an Old Bridge

    • Bulldog,
      Seeing the flood pics were an Oh May moment, and a sign of the strength of this stone and mortar structure. As a one with photography skills, hope you saw the link to Google images!


  1. The heaving river just goes to show that maybe the ‘devil’ knew a thing or two about bridge building. I’ve heard that trick before of sending an animal (goat?) before, possibly the same story 🙂

    Lovely post.


  2. now that’s the kind of post I like, lots of culture some cool fashion and wonderful old bridge. My hometown was names after a bridge, so I have a special connection to them – although our’s is not as nice as this one!


  3. Funny thing about bridges… There is a bridge in Greece [Bridge of Arta] which has a similar legend. “All day they were building it, and in the night it would collapse.” [from a folk song], so the chief worker had to sacrifice his wife! [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridge_of_Arta]
    Great post and photos, Frank.


  4. What an incredible bridge. It’s hard to imagine anything being that old. Australia is a relatively new country and we just don’t have architecture dating back any further than 200 years. So I’m in awe that something built so long ago with no use of power tools or today’s engineering skills has stood the test of time – what brilliant people they were, those born in medieval times xx


  5. Wonderful bridge, love the fashion statement. My brother and I have recreated some of our childhood photos from throughout Europe, it is fun to compare them. Those fashion statements, what our parents did to us!

    The ability to create and stand the test of time, amazing.


  6. Really cool bridge, Frank! Thanks for sharing the photos and your history with it. It has certainly stood the test of time. I so enjoy your blog because I always learn something new. Thank you! And I’m glad you got to spend some time there during your Italian quest.


  7. Amazing how little the back grounds have changed in the pictues over the years. Smashing looking bridge, it’s a bit ugly but somehow just in it’s place sitting nicely. I bet they don’t have sail boats or barges needing that much clerance any more.


  8. Great photos and fun memories. I love the picture of you as a young boy on the bridge, and don’t we all have some at about that age with the mismatched plaids! It’s a treasure to have that photo! The bridge and waterways are so beautiful and extra special for what they mean to you!


    • Debra,
      It seems a good many of us were fashion trendsetters back in the day! 😉 This is a beautiful area, and as one heads further into the valley, the more beautiful it gets! So if you ever make it to Lucca, travel north!


    • Cuttlefish,
      This river originates in the mountains, so the mountains must have had much river! Interestingly, there is a dam a short distance below the bridge. Simply a bit of contrast in their eras! …. and thanks for supporting the fashion statement. 😉


  9. I loved the photos. As to the fashion statement, I kid you not, but I just returned from NYC and if you stroll down 5th ave you would see this combination. I am serious! Which only proves the point that if you wait long enough everything will be fashionable again:) Not sure about the size though…


  10. lovely pics and story – sounds like you had a really good trip. Seeing all those places and people like that must give you a sense of connectedness and your own place in history.


    • Charie!!!!
      How and the heck have you been? For the posts I noticed that you’ve seen, you have sensed my connective nature on this trip. 48 years is a long time, so overdue is not strong enough. I’ll check in at your place once my project is over.


  11. I love this, Frank. What an interesting bridge with such an interesting story. Did you ever find out what kind of animal was sent across? The pictures are wonderful, and I envy you walking there. … You look like my little brother in that ’64 picture. Glasses, plaids, and all. 😉


    • Maddie,
      A special bridge for me indeed. As for the animal, I read different stories with different animals … thus why I provided the generic version. Meanwhile, I take it your little brother was also a fashion trendsetter.


  12. guess we can give the devil the credit for building such a great bridge that still stands today…but the best thing about this story is how you got to see it again in a different time frame. fab fashion model by the way…☺


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