Bagni di Lucca by Bill Anderson
Giacomo Puccini was a lover of nature and fast cars. He was a bit of a lad really and would often drive along the beautiful Serchio and Lima Valleys to get to Bagni di Lucca or his house in Abetone.
These wonderful green hills were the perfect habitat for the birds he loved to hunt and he could immerse himself in nature to relax and reflect. Lucchesia was Puccini’s Tuscany and where his heart lay. So much so that while in Paris when he heard the local accent of the Serchio Valley he was filled with nostalgia. Puccini therefore stopped to buy a little plaster statue of the tower of Pisa and chat to its maker Fabbri from San Casciano. This Fabbri was later to make Puccini’s death mask that can be seen at Puccini’s Villa on the banks of Torre del Lago near the famous seaside resort of Viareggio.
Ponte della Maddalena by Bill Anderson
One of Puccini’s favourite landmarks on his journeys was the wonderful medieval bridge, Ponte della Maddalena. This striking structure arrests the passing traveller with its five asymmetric arches; the fifth added in 1900’s to accomodate the new road. The bridge spans the Serchio River and for centuries was a vital crossing point for pilgrims on the Via Francigena, which linked Canterbury to Rome via France. The bridge is thought to date back to 1080 or 1100 and was probably commissioned by the Countess Matilda of Tuscany. Castruccio Castracani (1281-1328) a local Lucchese warlord heavily reworked the structure.
These donkey back bridges as they are known, are always accompanied by a legend. The locals still call this bridge “Il ponte del Diavolo” because the stories goes that the master builder who was commissioned to construct the bridge realized half way through the work that he couldn’t finish it on time. He therefore made a pact with the devil. The devil would finish the bridge in a day, if he were given the first soul that crossed the brigde. Tuscans however are wily souls and the first to cross was a pig. The devil was furious and in his rage kicked the bridge making it all askew. He then disappeared into the river forever.
The bridge was closed to traffic in 1670. This however didn’t stop the fun loving Puccini to try and cross with his friend for a bet in his car. They were the poet Giuseppe Giusti, the composer Mascagni and librettist Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti. The car of course got stuck and Puccini had to be pushed.
Il Ponte del Diavolo is best viewed from the Brennero Road (SS1) because there is a car park.
Ponte delle Catene by Bill Anderson
Just after the “figurine” factory, which is still owned by the Fabbri family, is
yet another stunning bridge, built in the 19th century by royal architect Lorenzo Nottolini. This crossing was designed as a footbridge at the behest of Duke Carlo Ludovico to act as a gateway to the highly fashionable spa town and thermal resort of Bagni di Lucca.