Friday 16 August 2013

Tuscan forest mystery - rediscovering a mediaeval bridge in Tuscany

It's fairly well-known that if you wander off the roads around Sovicille and other places in the Val di Merse of Tuscany, you'll stumble across monasteries and hermitages, some inhabited, some in ruins, hidden in the forest. Perhaps less well-known are the forest mysteries of the Chianti region. Today, I would like to describe the ruins of an imposing mediaeval bridge built over the river Pesa, near the Grignano towerhouse, famous as the home of Raymond Flower, the author to whom we owe much of the fame the region of Chianti all over the world.

Grignano tower, home of Raymond Flower
Grignano towerhouse, home of Raymond Flower
The site of the bridge is easily accessible through a narrow forest road that begins almost exactly in front of the sign indicating the southern border of the municipality of Greve in Chianti, located at kilometer 34 on the regional road Chiantigiana 222 (which connects Florence to Sienna). After a 5 minute walk, the forest road reaches the site where there once stood a bridge built in the 11th and 12th centuries to carry the new mediaeval road built to connect Panzano in Chianti with Castellina in Chianti, replacing two Etruscan-Roman tracks.

Mediaeval bridge near Grignano in Tuscany
The remaining arch of the mediaeval bridge near Grignano in Tuscany

Not so many years ago, this structure was studied by Andrea Garuglieri, who proposed a reconstruction of the original appearance of the bridge (Garuglieri's drawing below is from the book Dal Chianti romano al Chianti altomedievale, by Renato Stopani). According to this reconstruction, the bridge had three arches, like the mediaeval bridge still in existence at Sambuca Val di Pesa and was therefore truly impressive for the period. The remaining single arch confirms a high level of engineering.

Mediaeval bridge in Chianti - reconstruction
Andrea Garuglieri's drawing for his proposal of how the bridge appeared originally
The location of the bridge near the river Pesa, hidden by vegetation in a kind of well-preserved natural environment, makes it an absolutely very special place to be and something that I recommend historically-minded visitors to our area to seek out.

Raymond Flower Chianti: the land, the people and the wine (Croom Helm 1978)
Renato Stopani Dal Chianti romano al Chianti altomedievale

Cultural tours of Tuscany with Nicola Bernini
Nicola Bernini is a licensed tour guide specialising in the Siennese and Florentine provinces of Tuscany. Nicola's scholarly tours allow you to enjoy and learn about the wonderful off-the-beaten track treasures of Tuscany.

Nicola Bernini
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