Ponte della Maddalena…..Devil’s Bridge

Ponte Maddalena

While this gorgeous bridge is not actually in Bagni di Lucca it is synonymous with the area, and a perfect introduction to our villages . The very beautiful Ponte Diavolo crosses the Serchio river at Borgo a Mozzano, just 4 kilometres before Bagni di Lucca.

The bridge was thought to be commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany around 1080 – 1100 to enable people to cross the Serchio and get access to the spas in Bagno di Corsena, as Bagni di Lucca was then called.

The name Ponte Maddalena comes from a life size image of Maddalena, a painting from the Della Robbia school, which was in an oratory at the foot of the bridge. You can now see it in the Church of S. Jacopo in Borgo a Mozzano.

The bridge’s more popular name, Devil’s Bridge, comes from the legend from the time of Saint Julian, the protector of travellers. The devil was asked for help to construct the bridge and in return he was offered the soul of whoever crossed the bridge first. Saint Julian arranged for a dog to cross the bridge for the first time.

In 1836 a flood damaged the bridge and it required significant repairs. An extra arch was added in the early 1900s to make more room for a surfaced roadway.

spring at Ponte della Maddalena

beside the bridge

a perfect reflection

the main arch is 18.5 metres high

looking down from the top

looking towards Bagni di Lucca

from the top

a perfect spring day

looking towards Borgo a Mozzano

the beautiful Serchio valley

Lucky for us it is still intact and it is possible to walk across the bridge and to admire the excellent view from the highest arch.

The bridge takes on a completely different look in winter. I think it looked wonderful in 2011 with the huge flag put there to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the unification of Italy.

a rainy day at Ponte della Maddalena

even the ducks are impressed

There is a car park beside the bridge to allow you to stop for a while. I tried walking there from Bagni di Lucca once, but that was a bit scary. There is no footpath and the road is narrow and I was shouted at by drivers. There is a bus stop there, so if you can coordinate the buses, that would be an option. Walking from Borgo a Mozzano is a bit less dramatic.

I think the perfect solution would be a footpath constructed beside the road, over the river, which would give excellent pedestrian access…… is anyone listening?

22 thoughts on “Ponte della Maddalena…..Devil’s Bridge

  1. I agree, a path alongside the river would be briliant. Only this Friday my friend and I went for a walk across the bridge and around Borgo a Mozzano but we had to drive and park at the bridge first, would have been great to walk from here. It’s something guests often ask us about too, it’s a shame to have to explain it’s not really possible as it’s not safe.

    • I would not recommend walking from Bagni di Lucca. While drivers here are accepting of cyclists on the road, they really don’t like pedestrians. I was yelled at and horns were blasted. A metal walkway suspended over the river I think is an excellent solution and not particularly costly. It would give much better access to this lovely bridge.

  2. I totally agree with you. The wonderful bridge deserves a safer access. Traffic on the road is quite intense and dangerous to pedestrians. You can park next to the bridge if you are taking your car.
    Perhaps some readers may be interested in Countess Matilda’s biography. Quite a formidable lady:
    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10049b.htm
    She is buried at St Peter’s in Rome and her monument, by Bernini, is beautiful:
    http://saintpetersbasilica.org/Monuments/MatildaofCanossa/MatildaofCanossa.htm

      • You know how much I love history, Debra and I think it is important to remember Bagni di Lucca’s past, although this does not mean planning its future. As Countess Matilda loved the thermal baths at Bagni (or Corsena, as it used to be called) and bearing in mind that she was the first person in power to look after the restoration of the thermal caves (no buildings at the time), I think that it would be great to have a pedestrian promenade along the banks of the river up to the Ponte, and name it after her. One problem, though, the road is very narrow there…
        At least I know there would be three of us all in favour of the project!

      • The walkway could be built outside the wall at the edge the road. I have seen them in other places where there is a metal mesh walkway cantilevered over the river. The road is not wide enough to allow for a footpath and there isn’t really a way of widening it without chopping a space out of the rock cliff, a very expensive thing to do.

  3. When my husband and I were last in Italy we decided to search this bridge out. It is featured on so many postcards etc. that I had become fascinated by it. We had spent the day in Lucca and from there headed up the road to see the bridge. As you said there is parking, so we were able to stop and walk across the bridge and admire it from several vantage points. I really enjoy the story attached to its construction too. In our modern world with all its technology, it is even more amazing to try to imagine just how they could have built this bridge so long ago.

  4. Just read this post and it made me giggle ” I tried walking there from Bagni di Lucca once, but that was a bit scary. There is no footpath and the road is narrow and I was shouted at by drivers” We did that walk and I was praying for me life. We made the mistake of going past it on the train and getting off at Bagni di Lucca! The ground was covered in ice and trucks where coming head on towards us. Not nice at all but when the bridge came into view it was stunning!… And if your wondering, we was smart enough to cross the bridge and find a much closer station!;)

    • I would love to see a footpath built to this bridge. It could be cantilevered over the river beside the road. It would make the bridge much more accessible for people without a car. I will never walk on that road again.

  5. Pingback: Suspense! | From London to Longoio (and Lucca and beyond)

    • I think you could be correct there, as the railway is under that extension. However, it was done so long ago, that perhaps it was originally a road and later changed to rail.

  6. A lot of my husband’s family is from the Cune/ Borgo a Mozzano area. We spent a week in Cune a couple of years ago, and walked around Borgo and over the bridge. Very old and fascinating area, when you really start to get into the history, folklore and traditions. We had an amazing time then, and we’re looking forward to walking across that beautiful bridge again this September. We’ll be taking your advice, and checking out “Ristorante la Ruota” as well!
    Cheers!

    • Hi Erin, it sounds like you did, exactly what I am trying to do. I have been trying to find out information, as to what else is there to do in Borgo a Mozanno after you have seen the bridge. There’s only small bits of details listed for Borgo out there, until I came to Debra Kolkka’s page. Would you mind giving me some advice, as to what to see? Originally, I thought I would walk toward Bagni di Lucca area but after hearing about the walk…no way! Is there anything nice to see in the village? Can I walk up in the woods to see anything? Basically, I will be arriving by train, late March on a Saturday, and have 2 hours 20 minutes to see Borgo. I figured by the time I saw the bridge and maybe found a little pizzeria, I may have an hour or less to take in the views. Thank you for any help or suggestions you can give.

      • Erin may not see this so I will try to answer. It is a reasonable walk from the station to the bridge, probably 15 minutes. If you are coming from Lucca you could catch a bus, which would drop you much closer. You could find the church in Borgo where the statue of the Maddalena that gave the bridge its name is now placed. I’m not sure which one it is, but there should be info somewhere.There is a cafe at the bridge and a shop selling local produce. A walk through the town would be OK. There is not a lot still open. Like many small towns the individual shops have been pushed out by supermarkets.
        Good luck with your visit.

  7. Hello I am visiting the region in a week or so’s time and I would love to know something of the history of Bagni during the Second World War please – and how the bridge avoided being blown up by the retreating Germans. Thank you!

    • The Germans thought the bridge was too narrow so they didn’t bother with it. The allies found they could get narrow jeeps across. I am travelling in Sicily right now so I can’t really help you with history.

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