Then and Now…Ponte a Serraglio

The name Ponte a Serraglio (bridge of harem or menagerie. I wonder what went on here in the distant past) is mentioned as “ad Serrajule” in a document for the first time in 838.

I can’t show you what it looked like then, but there are photos from the early 1900s.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a SerraglioPonte a SerraglioPonte a Serraglio

Some of the buildings remain and look similar. Bar Italia and Il Monaco now take the place of the 2 cafes with tables and provide the focus for the piazza.

Ponte a Serraglio

This is the view of the piazza from my balcony.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

The road to the piazza in Ponte a Serraglio looks quite different. The beautiful old plane trees which lined the river have gone.

Ponte a Serraglio


Ponte a Serraglio

New trees have been planted and are doing well, but it will be a long time before they are as grand as the old ones.

This photo is taken from the other side of the river, but you can see how the new trees are growing beside the river.

Ponte a Serraglio

The views from the bridge probably haven’t changed all that much.

Ponte a Serraglio

Ponte a Serraglio

We have a new walking bridge across the river.

Ponte a Serraglio

The lovely old towers beside Villa Fiori have been cleaned and look great.

Ponte a Serraglio

I think Ponte a Serraglio is one of the prettiest villages in Bagni di Lucca, but, of course, I am biased.

Ponte a Serraglio


Ponte a SerraglioMost of the new photos were taken in summer. I will be back in Ponte a Serraglio soon to enjoy some lovely cold winter weather. I am hoping for snow.

39 thoughts on “Then and Now…Ponte a Serraglio

  1. I think it means ‘locked up’ (‘serratura’ is a lock) which can apply to a sultan’s harem or caged animals or a fortified place. In the case of Ponte a Serraglio, Paola Moschini told me there was once a fort there and it was the ‘bridge at the fort’. The derivation is: Dal provenz. serralh, dal lat. tardo serraclum, der. di serare ‘chiudere’ | sec. XVII.

      • Hi Debra, Happy to supply the translation. It comes from the provençale word serralh, from late Latin serraclum, dervied from serare [note the single ‘r’] which means ‘to close’ | 17th century. I also checked Francis’s comment about ‘seraglio’ vs ‘serraglio’ and will add that to his below.

  2. Seraglio with one “r” means women’s quarters and derives from Persian “Saray”. It’s also part of the title of Mozart’s singspiel on the subject of harems. Serraglio with two “r” means a locked place and refers to a geological narrow part of a valley which can be easily defended like ponte. CF also serra=pass and “serravalle”.

      • According to my highly respected Italian-Italian dictionary by Devoto-Oli:
        serraglio 2 [note the double ‘r’ in present-day Italian]

        s.m. (pl. –gli)
        1. Serie di costruzioni, in forma di padiglioni e di edifici, che costituivano la residenza di sovrani e potentati del mondo islamico.2. Termine usato in Occidente come equivalente di harem; fig.: avere un s., un gran numero di donne o di amanti.
        Dal turco saray | sec. XVI

        Trans: 1. A series of constructions, in the form of tents and buildings, which constituted the residence of sovereigns and potentates in the Islamic world. 2. Term used in the West as the equivalent of harem; figurative: to have a harem, a large number of women or lovers.

        In the case of Ponte a Serraglio, it’s the second definition of the first meaning of serraglio in Devoto-Olio:

        serraglio 1
        s.m. (pl. –gli)
        2. Riparo, sbarramento

        Riparo means:
        ~ Nel linguaggio militare, opera di protezione o difesa per armi e tiratori.

        Trans: In military terminology, a means of protection or defence for armies and marksmen.

        I can’t find the geological meaning which Francis cites, but it makes sense.

        Could go on forever, so I’ll just add the meaning of serraglio I like best and then quit. It’s under the first definition of serraglio, and refers to one of the definitions you gave, Debra: a group of caged ferocious animals.

        fig., raccolta di persone rumorose e scomposte: quella classe è un vero s.

        Trans: A group of noisy, unruly people: that class is a true serraglio.

  3. I agree, Debra, that Ponte a Serraglio is the prettiest village I’ve seen with timelessness attached to its beauty. The locals also make Ponte a Serraglio a welcoming place. Your balcony commands beautiful views on either sides of the Lima. Lucky you!!

  4. After this intriguing reference to the double meaning of serraglio, I was forced to do a little digging, only to find the answers already here thanks to both Francis and Heather. Serrare is the verb to lock so I guess that is the key!! I imagined it to be some sort of fort or cage but then never thought about it in the geographical sense ( thanks Francis). As seraglio with one ‘r’ simply means harem or Turkish women’s quarters in English also, I guess that may explain the initial confusion in meaning, that is, one ‘r’ versus two.
    The area hasn’t changed much! Fabulous photos.

  5. Debra! Love, love, love these old pictures….I always think about what life must have been like back then, just the clothes alone. Anyway…..trying to understand the name was very interesting too…..I love the input from others……but then again…..maybe some Italian man was dreaming of a harem when he named the bridge. ha, ha, ha….

  6. Imagine how much lovelier the piazza would be if there were no more cars parked there and maybe some of the traffic was reduced. More tables and chairs outside, stone paving..

  7. Whenever we came down from our cottage in San Cassiano, we would either stop in Bagni di Lucca to have pastry & coffee or the bakery shown in one of your pictures in Ponte a Serraglio. I remember it very well! Ahh, great times!

      • However, some of my favorite joints are in Barga. Barga is probably my favorite village…. Pastry & Coffee is a wonderful ritual! Especially in Italy!

      • I like Barga too, but since my house is in Ponte a Serraglio and my blog is about Bagni Di Lucca I am going to declare our area to be my favourite. As I said, I am a little biased.

  8. Great photos and an erudite discussion on the origins of the name.
    Ponte looks as beautiful in the earlier photos as it does to day.

  9. Just came across this. In my research of my famly, I found out my great grandmother was born here in Ponte a Serraglio. I have always known my grandmother was born in Bagni Di Lucca- I have a photo of the home that is supposed to be where my great grandmother was born, and just saw on some information it lists in Ponte A Serraglio. One day I hope to visit and see for myself.

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