There are places that keep secrets and legends, capable of capturing attention and intriguing at first glance.
One of these places full of charm and mystery is located in Borgo a Mozzano, in the province of Lucca, on the border with the Garfagnana: here the two banks of the Serchio river are connected by a bridge with a particularly unusual shape, so much so that it is called “the Devil’s Bridge “
Ponte della Maddalena, this is its official name, is actually a masterpiece of medieval engineering, a construction so daring that it seems to defy the laws of gravity.
The structure is characterized by a large round arch so high and wide that it does not seem “made by human hand” flanked by three other minor arches.
Built by Countess Matilde di Canossa between the 11th and 12th century, the bridge was then rebuilt during the dominion of Castruccio Castracani, lord of Lucca in the early 14th century.
The current appearance of the building is the result of nineteenth-century changes, imposed by the damage suffered by the structure during the flood of the Serchio in 1836, and twentieth-century, with the opening of a new arch in the terminal part following the construction of the railway.
But where does that demanding and at the same time not a little disturbing name come from?
The origin is to be found in some legends that have been handed down for centuries in Lucca and its surroundings.
The most evocative and perhaps most famous story takes us back more than 1000 years, when the bridge was still under construction and tells of the concern of the site manager Mastro Incerti for the delay accumulated in the works due to the continuous floods of the river.
Seized by desperation, man utters sacrileges such as to even evoke Satan; the devil does not miss the opportunity to tempt the master builder by promising to complete the work in a single night in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge.
But once the construction is finished, desperate for the imminence of the pledge to be paid, Mastro Incerti at the suggestion of the parish priest devises a stratagem by having a dog cross the bridge.
The devil does not accept the mockery, he takes the animal with him and disappears by throwing himself into the river.
It is said that the dog, a Maremma shepherd with a white coat, is occasionally seen walking on the bridge in the last evenings of October: it would actually be the devil who is still looking for the soul of the foreman.
Folk tales also claim that the petrified body of the poor animal can be seen at the bottom of the river.
Another legend is instead linked to the vanity of the young noblewoman Lucida Mansi, terrified by the idea of getting old and desperate following the appearance of her first wrinkle on her beautiful face.
Walking on the Ponte della Maddalena she meets a boy who promises her thirty years of youth in exchange for her soul. The noblewoman accepts but the tempter was actually Lucifer in false disguise who, after having led Lucida to the highest point of the bridge, reveals her true appearance and throws the woman into the waters of the Serchio.
Curiosity: the devil’s bridge does not exist only in Borgo a Mozzano, this definition is used for numerous bridges in Europe and in the world, so defined because their structures were considered so complex and daring that they could only be built through a diabolical device.