Devil's Bridge

In an age of steel, bolts and rivets, it's inspiring to witness an architectural marvel of natural material that speaks to the ingenuity of humankind.

This is the case with the "Devil's Bridge," one of thousands such marvels to be found in Europe.

This bridge is found in the Piedmont region of Italy, in the Lanzo area, and is known as "Ponte del Roc," but more familiarly in Italian as "Ponte del Diavolo."

The bridge spans the Stura River and was built in the late 1300s along what was then an old mule trail that descended from the Alps to the city of Torino in the Po River Valley. The bridge rises above the level of the water in a curved peak 15 meters high, providing travelers a sturdy passage from Mount Buriasco to Mount Mombasso on the other side. The arched gate used to have a door in it and a sentinel was mounted to guard it during medieval times. Soldiers would close the gate and block movement during times of plagues and war.

Numerous legends have swirled around this bridge like the water that flows fast and gurgles in the rock potholes below it. How did it come to be known as "Devil's Bridge?"

The most famous of these stories claims the devil himself built the bridge in a single night in exchange for the sacrificial soul of a local resident. However, a more likely explanation relates to something as certain as death itself: taxation. When the bridge was built, the local authorities in 1377 decided to impose a tax on wine to help pay for the bridge. They decreed that the wine tax should remain in effect for a period of 10 years. To this proposition, local residents are said to have responded: "To hell with the bridge!" (The Italian phrase was, "Al diavolo il ponte.")

The tax stayed.

Whatever the legend, "Devil's Bridge" has stood the test of time, through winter freezes and summer heat. To the hikers and mountain bikers who use it today, it remains a steadfast reminder that age-old construction methods were impressively reliable and that the resulting structures were elegant, too.

For more information, see (Italian site).
Photos: Duilio Zane

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