Roman engineers were famous for their bridge building skills. They were the first to apply arches into bridge structures. Each of their bridges stands out for its uniqueness and beauty.
The Devil’s Bridge (Ponte del Diavolo) interests people for its structure and the legend related to it. And many tourists do their best not to miss the opportunity of visiting and admiring this ancient piece of structure during their Italian tours.
There are two or three dozen of Devil’s Bridges in different countries: Spain, France, Portugal, Italy, Switzerland, Colombia, Bulgaria, Slovenia, the Netherlands, Romania and Estonia. Each of them has its own legend and history. They all represent a special technological achievement, being built of stone and dating back to 1,000-1,600.
In local folktales there are three versions of how these bridges were constructed: by the devil, with the help of the devil and against the wishes of the devil. But each of these bridges received its name because of the structure’s complex form and aesthetic grace. Besides, they have economic and strategic importance for the community they serve.
A very interesting legend is connected with the Ponte del Diavolo in Tuscany, a region in Central Italy. It is on the river Serchio and joins the two banks of the river.
The Maddalena’s Bridge, or Devil’s Bridge, was constructed during the era of the Countess Matilde di Canossa (1046-1115). However, its present day appearance is due to the reconstruction by Castruccio Castracani (1281-1328).
According to the legend, a master builder from a village across the bank of Serchio River was asked by the inhabitants to build a bridge to connect both banks of the river. The master began working day and night, but he soon noticed that he would not manage to finish the work in time. Thus, in utter despair he accepted the devil’s help to finish the work.
In return the devil wanted the first soul who would cross the bridge. After the bridge was constructed, the wise master let a pig cross it. The devil, frantic with anger and frustration, threw himself into the waters of the Serchio and since then nobody has seen him.
Such legends with some differences exist for each of the devil’s bridges. They even form a special category in the Aarne-Thompson classification system for folktales.