Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Barga Blues Festival and The Devil's Bridge

The pool- there was an amazing view of Barga and the
surrounding mountains.
This past weekend we took a little road trip down to a small town called Barga. It's in Tuscany, in the province of Lucca. It's about 40 km from the sea, so we thought we might spend some time at the beach. When we saw how nice the hotel was, we scrapped that idea and sat by the pool all weekend. It was great!!

Barga in the evening
The great thing about Tuscany is that there seems to be a festival going on every weekend in the summer. This weekend was no exception. There was a bbq and blues festival going on in Barga, and it was really fun! They had bands set up in all of the little squares, tables selling things, the stores were open and the entire city showed up to celebrate the occasion. Surprisingly, there are a lot of young families in Barga- we couldn't walk down a street without getting held up because there were a bunch of strollers blocking traffic. It was a little unusual for me. When we go to these small towns in Italy, the population always seems to be older and we don't see as many young adults. Maybe they are all hiding when we go to the small towns? It was fun to see some people our age!

Some interesting art we found in the city- painted umbrellas

This was the car for Trattoria di Riccardo

This was a sign we followed to find one of the bands playing
in the city, they also had a pork roast and other yummy foods 

One of the popular places that night- we counted between 5 or 6
strollers that were just hanging out by the this bar. There was a
serious traffic jam!

Another fun part of this weekend was seeing the "Devil's Bridge" (really it's called Maddalena's Bridge) on Saturday. The morning was overcast, so we took advantage and went to see the bridge before lying by the pool in the sunny afternoon. It was only about 15 km away from our hotel near a town called Borgo a Mozzano, so it was a quick and easy car ride. This thing is crazy! You see pictures and think it looks interesting, but when you actually climb the bridge, it's unbelievable how steep it really is. It took me a while to climb it with the preggo belly. I think Ragnar would be interested in seeing this bridge- he's a bridge engineer in Drammen.

The Devil's Bridge

Here is the local legend (found on The Florentine, but most versions I've found have the same story):
"Popular legend that tells the story of a clever and respected master builder who lived in a village on the banks of the River Serchio. The villagers asked him to build a bridge to connect their village with the one across the river. He set to work immediately, but he soon realised that the construction was not progressing as quickly as he had promised. Being a man of honour and wanting to keep his word, he became very unhappy and quite desperate. He continued working very hard, day and night, to finish the task within the time agreed upon in the contract, but the work proceeded very slowly. The days flew by.

The arch on the far left was added on to allow traffic through

One evening, while the master builder was sitting alone on the banks of the Serchio, looking at the work that was still to be done and thinking of the shame he would suffer for not having completed it on time, the devil appeared to him in the form of a respectable businessman. He approached the master builder and said he could finish the bridge in a single night-if the builder would promise him the soul of the first one who crossed the bridge when it was completed. The builder accepted the proposal.

The steep climb up to the top
The following day, the village had its beautiful bridge that can still be seen today near Borgo a Mozzano. The townspeople were astonished and delighted. When they went to congratulate the builder, he ordered them not to cross the bridge before sunset. Then, worried about his deal with the devil, he set off on his horse for Lucca to ask the bishop (who became Saint Frediano), for advice. This saintly man told him not to worry: he should let a pig cross the bridge first. That is just what the builder did. The devil, furious at having been tricked, threw himself into the waters of the Serchio." After the devil returned to the water, it was said that if you stand on the bridge gazing into the water for too long, the devil would rise up and take you, still looking for that one soul that he was promised.

We spent a lot of time admiring the bridge; after all it was completed before or around 1100! Since then, it has had one or two restorations due to damage from flooding, and they added an archway along one side of the bridge for traffic to drive under, but otherwise it's construction is the original. It was a part of the Roman Road from France and people would use this bridge on their pilgrimage. It was fun to think of all of the people from history that could have crossed it. For example, I recently read a book about Eleanor of Aquitaine. She passed through this area a few times, once on the second crusade. She could have crossed this bridge with an army of crusaders.

Our view from the room on Sunday morning, the mountains
reminded us of the Dolomites. They were a lot bigger than
I thought they would be!
After three days of relaxing by the pool and enjoying Barga, we headed home. It was a fun weekend!! I'm looking forward to going back to Barga next year. If we are still living in Italy at that time, we plan to come back for the Blues festival next summer.

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