Sunday, February 20, 2011

Barga and Borgo a Mozzano: Attack of the devil pig at Ponte del Diavolo!

Friday, February 18
After class today, we stay in Lucca for a trip to the Garfagnana city of Barga with our classmates from Lucca Italian School. We stop along the way at Borgo a Mozzano to see an amazing medieval stone bridge across the Serchio River called Ponte del Diavolo. It was begun around 1100, and it is said that the man contracted to build the bridge was in despair because, despite his many days of feverish toil, the project was far behind schedule. He had promised the people of the village it would be completed on time, and now he faced shame and discredit for his failure. The devil appeared to him and promised to complete it in one night in exchange for the soul of the first person to cross the finished bridge. The builder accepted, and the stunning bridge was completed.

The builder told the people of the village not to cross the bridge until he returned, and he set off to Lucca to seek the advice of the bishop, St. Frediano. Returning with the bishop’s wise advice, the builder sent a pig across first. The devil, furious at having been tricked, threw himself into the waters of the Serchio and he
has not been seen in the area since.

A good story, though this bridge really doesn’t need any embellishing. How did they get the top of this arch bridge to stay upright during the construction phase? I understand that an arch bridge, when completed, is very strong because the bridge deck pushes against the river’s banks, which can’t be moved. But when the bridge is only partly completed, what holds it up? I suppose some kind of scaffolding, but it’s a long way down to the river bed.

In any event, we go up on top to take a better look but are chased off by an onrushing enraged pig and have to beat a hasty retreat to the car. Where did that come from? OK, just kidding about the pig.

Barga is just your typical gorgeous Italian hillside village, complete with intricate stonework, narrow alleys, arching bridges, ancient plane trees, weathered wooden doors, a towering duomo and quaint shops. Also typical is the public bagno that is troppo sporco e puzzo for the wo-
men in our group to use. In order to use a clean bathroom, we go into a bar and order some capucchino and hot chocolate and rest for a moment.

We find an interesting sign that reminds of our family trip in 2002 to Finale Ligure. As we walked up and down the steep stairs there, we saw signs that said, “Se sporca il tuo cane, pulisci per favore.” Previously we had only known the word sporca to be used as an adjective that meant dirty, so we all initially thought the signs were saying, “If your dog is dirty, clean it please.” This seemed like a strange request to put on a sign. After further thought, I figured out that sporcare must also be a verb, so it meant, “If your dog dirties, clean up the remains, please.”

Here in Barga, they don’t want any misunderstandings from stupid Americans who keep bathing their dogs in the street every time they pass the signs, so they created a graphic, which has to be seen to be appreciated. This artful sign will undoubtedly soon become the international symbol for clean up your dog’s poop!


  1. This made me laugh to tears! That dog poo sign is amazing! There is a tsunmai evacuation route sign here that shows a person running from a giant wave, and another person is sticking out of the wave.

  2. I laughed at what you said about the stupid Americans bathing their dogs in the street every time they passed one of the signs. I need the words on the poop sign translated---the graphics are self-explanatory.

  3. It is something like this: Owners and keepers of dogs in any capacity are forbidden to leave the manure of animals. These droppings should be removed by means which are suitable.

  4. Awesome Bridge. Would really make some nice pictures.


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