Architects and engineers appreciate that a bridge is more than just a way to cross a gap, but how many of us would include bridges on our list of Things To See in Italy? These bridges are fun to visit, will give you a nice photo-op and of course are free to walk across. Many of them are also quite beyond the obvious. Here are my picks for best Italy bridges in the northern part of the country.
Pont d’Ael, Aosta
This 66m-high, 2000-year old Roman acqueduct crosses the gorge of Grand Eyvia, near Aosta in the Italian Alps.
Ponte Vecchio, Dolce Aqua, Liguria
Very close to the French border, the quiet medieval hamlet of Dolce Aqua is home to this exquisite bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, built in the 15th century.
Ponte Degli Alpini, Bassano del Grappa, Veneto
With mountain views, a pretty main street, a scenic walk along Viale dei Martiri and of course, its covered bridge, the town of Bassano del Grappa is worth a visit. It’s conveniently situated close to the famous Valpolicella wine region as well as Prosecco country, and is just a couple of hours from Venice.
Ponte della Maddalena, Borgo a Mozzano, near Lucca
An impressive example of medieval engineering, this 900-year old bridge was allegedly built on a pact with the devil. Because of that, it’s known as Ponte del Diavolo or Devil’s Bridge, but around 1500 it was also given the official name Ponte della Maddalena, after Mary Magdelene.
Bridge of Sighs, Venice
Built in 1602 and designed by Antoni Contino, Venice’s Ponte dei Sospiri or Bridge of Sighs was named because of the prisoners’ sighs as they walked over the bridge from the interrogation rooms to the prison and took their last look outside.
Rialto Bridge, Venice
The original Rialto market bridge was built in the early 1400’s and made of wood. But when it partly burnt in 1310, collapsed in 1444, and collapsed again in 1524 from the weight of crowds, the city decided to build the new bridge out of stone. Many great designers, including Michelangelo, were considered, but the design competition was won by Antonio da Ponte (ponte means bridge in Italian; coincidence?). The new bridge was complete by 1591, with a very similar design to the wooden original.
Ponte Vecchio, Florence
The original bridge in this spot was built by the Romans over a thousand years ago, and was a simple structure. But so many soldiers crossed on a regular basis that blacksmiths, tanners and butchers decided to set up shop on the bridge to take advantage of the high traffic location. The bridge was swept away by floods in 1117 and again in 1333, but was rebuilt in 1345 similar to the version we see today.
When the wealthy Medici family arrived in Florence, they decided that the post-plague beautification of Florence would include having goldsmiths and artists on the bridge, and commerce over the Arno flourished. In the 17th and 18th centuries an upper row and a back row of shops were added to make room for additional merchants. The addition strengthened the structure of the bridge so much that when the Arno flooded again in 1966, all the shops were wiped out but the bridge stood. The top level of the bridge is part of the enclosed passageway, the Vasari Corridor.
Castel Vecchio Bridge, Verona
This bridge had the largest span in the world when it was built in the mid-14th century.
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