CHIAVARI, Italy – In the beginning, bridge builders used logs and large stones to cross rivers and tough terrain. That technique worked for a few centuries, but when the Romans came along, their engineers completely revolutionized the art of bridge building by showing the world how to construct an arch.
With such powerful knowledge, Roman engineers spread across Europe, Asia and Africa, building over 900 brides during the life of the Roman Republic and Empire. The Romans built bridges in 26 different countries from Portugal to Turkey, and hundreds and hundreds of them are still standing.
In Italy the art of bridge building has always been a source of national pride. Here are just ten of Italy’s beautiful bridges, some of them even date back to the days of the Roman Empire.
1. PONTE DI FERMIGNANO \ Marche
This beautiful bridge with its three stone arches, was built on the Metauro River during the Roman era. The medieval tower was strategic in the defense of the territory.
2. PONTE SANT’ANGELO / Rome
The Ponte Sant’Angelo is one of the oldest bridges in Rome. It was built over the Tiber by the emperor Hadrian (reigned 117–138 ad) to connect the Campus Martius (a public park called Field of Mars) with his tomb – originally called Hadrian’s Tomb and later renamed Castel Sant' Angelo. The bridge was completed about 135 AD. In the 16th century Pope Clement VII placed statues of Saints Peter and Paul at the end of the bridge. In 1688, ten statues of angels, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, were mounted on the parapets.
3. PONTE VECCHIO - BASSANO DEL GRAPPA \ Veneto
This covered bridge in the northern town of Bassano del Grappa in the Veneto region is post card pretty. It’s made of wood and has been around since the 1200’s. It’s known as the Ponte Vecchio or the Alpine bridge.
4. PONTE DEL DIAVOLO \ ROCH – LANZO TORINESE \ Piedmonte
This stone bridge over the Stura river in the northern region of Piedmont, is made in a style called “schiena d’asino” or mule’s back. It is 52 feet high and was built in 1378. It’s no surprise that it draws a lot of tourists.
5. PONTE VECCHIO – FIRENZE
The Ponte Vecchio in Florence, which spans the Arno River, is one of the most famous bridges in Italy and a symbol of the city. It is one of the first examples of a bridge built using pointed Roman arches, which one housed butcher shops but now there are only jewelry shops and souvenir shops.
6. PONTE DI RIALTO - VENEZIA
The Rialto Bridge in Venice is one of the most photographed bridges in the world. It is the most popular of the four bridges that cross the Grand Canal, a symbol of the city. The first bridge across the canal was a pontoon bridge that was built in 1181. But as the Rialto market developed, there was too much traffic for the pontoon bridge to handle, so in 1255 the city built a wooden drawbridge that opened in the middle to allow the passage of tall ships. During the first half of the 15th century the Rialto market flourished. Tall ship traffic was redirected and, as the Venetians were known not to waste anything, especially valuable space, two rows of shops were built along the sides of the bridge.
7. PONTE DEI SARACENI – ADRANO\CENTURIPE \ Sicilia
The Bridge of the Saracens, which is what this bridge is called, has absolutely nothing to do with Saracens. It was originally built by the Romans, but updated over the centuries and it is now considered one of the finest medieval bridges in Sicily. Built over the Simeto River in the ninth century, it connects the municipality of Adrano, near Catania, and the town of Centuripe, in the province of Enna.
8. PONTE DELLE TORRI – SPOLETO \ Umbria
In the green of the Umbrian countryside, you find this wonderful bridge built on the ruins of an ancient Roman aqueduct. The bridge, which has ten 295 foot arches, connects Colle Sant'Elia and Monteluco. From here you have one of the most spectacular views of the city of Spoleto, so spectacular in fact, as to get a mention in Goethe’s “Journey to Italy.”.
9. PONTE DEI SOSPIRI – VENEZIA
The Bridge of Sighs may be the smallest bridge on this list, but it is the most romantic. The name comes from the “sighs” of prisoners who were getting their last look at daylight before being taken down and imprisoned in the dark and dank dungeons under the Doge’s Palace. Today it’s a favorite place to pop that all-important question to the one you love.
10. PONTE SCALIGERO DI CASTELVECCHIO – VERONA
This beautiful bridge was built over the Adige River in the middle of the nineteenth century. The stone and brick constructions fools many a visitor to Verona who think it was built in the Middle Ages, like other buildings nearby.
Copyright © Phyllis Macchioni 2016 All Rights Reserved