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Garfagnana area: Borgo a Mozzano the Devil's Bridge

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Distance from Lucca
Pisa Airport Km 18
Firenze Airport Km 90
Grosseto Km. 218
Livorno Km. 45
Massa Km. 48
Pisa Km. 20
Pistoia Km. 44
Prato Km. 57
Siena Km. 134

Borgo a Mozzano
lain down on the bank right of the river, is the door of the valley of the Serchio.

This ancient country preserves engraved architectural, monumental and artistic tracks in the pass of the centuries, as the Romanesque wonderful parishes of Diecimo and wood of turkey oaks and the risky structure of the bridge of the devil (or bridge of the Magdalene,) built in the century XIII to want some countess Mathilda in Canossa.

The oldest historical signs of Borgo a Mozzano date back to the name of Countess Mathilda, the daughter of "Bonifazio Lucchese and Beatrice". But for sure this village like all the others of the Serchio Valley had magnificence of life at the times of the Roman Empire's grandeur not to mention the former historical presence of the Ligurians and the Etruscans. There is also plenty of news on Borgo a Mozzano going back to Longobard and Carolingian times; that is to say dating back to earlier than the year One Thousand. Later on, even here, there are signs of the magnificence of life of the free cities' times. There is clear evidence through the large amount of laws, statutes, rules. Each single field of community life, from agricultural technique to sheep grazing, from religious life to political cohabitation was involved. Unbelievable is also the number of written laws and rules being the sign of great civilization, of the attachment to the deep feeling of justice and passion for well-structured living together. At Borgo a Mozzano and in the whole territory of the free city there were born artists, men of letters and law but also excellent craftsmen for wood and iron. The first events of community life from a political, religious and also artistic viewpoint are due to them. And the awareness of a past that was not dull, of a tradition of community life not being negligible at all even today gives rise to the most different aspects of social life.

The Devil's Bridge is on the river Serchio near the town of Borgo a Mozzano, along the road 'SS12 dell'Abetone e del Brennero' that you can take from Lucca. The Maddalena's bridge or Devil's Bridge (ponte del diavolo) connect the two banks of the river Serchio at the height of Borgo a Mozzano. Its construction goes back to the era of the Countess Matilde di Canossa (1046-1115), that had large influence and power on this zone of Tuscany, the 'Garfagnana', but its current aspect is due to the reconstruction carried on by Castruccio Castracani (1281-1328), Sir of the near town of Lucca , in the first years of the 14th century. The aspect of this medieval bridge is the classic, for its high frequence in Tuscany, called at 'donkey back', here, and this becomes a unique characteristic, with asymmetric arches. The bridge is known as Devil's Bridge' in force of a popular legend, reinforced from its strange aspect: a master mason had begun its building but soon he noticed that it would not be successful to complete the work for the fixed day and taken from the fear of the possible consequences invoked to the Devil asking him aid. The Devil accepted to complete the bridge in a night in change of the spirit of the first that will cross it. The contract was signed but the constructor, full of remorse, confess himself with a religious of the zone that advised him to let cross the bridge for first at a pig. So the Devil was defeated and he disappeared in the deepness of the river.

The Legend of the Devil's Bridge
Once upon a time a clever and respected master builder lived in a village on the banks of the Serchio River. The inhabitants of the village approached him, asking him to build a bridge to connect their village with the one across the river. He immediately set to work, but he soon saw that the work was not progressing as quickly as he'd promised his fellow citizens it would, and being a man of his word and one who always fulfilled his obligations, he became very unhappy and desperate. He continued to put great effort into the work day and night so as to finish the task within the time allowed for in the contract, but the work continued to proceed very slowly while the days flew by. One evening while the builder was sitting alone on the banks of the Serchio looking at the work and thinking of the shame and discredit he would suffer for not having completed it in time, the devil appeared to him in the form of a respectable businessman.

He went straight up to the builder telling him that he'd be able to finish the bridge in a single night. The man didn't believe what the devil was saying, but listened anyway, and in the end accepted his proposal. Naturally the devil wanted something in return: the builder was to undertake to give him the soul of the first person that crossed the bridge when it was completed. The builder accepted and the following day the village had its beautiful bridge that can still be seen today in Borgo a Mozzano.

The people were stunned and unable to believe what had been accomplished, and went to congratulate this craftsman who ordered them not to cross the bridge before sunset. In the meantime, the builder got on his horse, a little worried if the truth be told, and set off for Lucca to ask the Bishop for advice. At that time the Bishop was Saint Frediano. This saintly man told him not to worry and to allow the devil to take the soul of the first person to cross the bridge, and told him to let a pig cross first. This was done and the devil, furious at having been tricked, threw himself into the waters of the Serchio, and has not been seen in the area since.

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