At the end of October, Americans celebrate Halloween, but the Italians celebrate All Saints Day. Halloween is a relatively new “imported” holiday for the Italians, and traditional Italians thumb their noses at the “Trick or Treat” or “Dolcetto o Scherzetto” scene. They prefer to save dressing up for Carnival. However, there is an exception. In Lucca at this time of the year is the largest Geek-cultural event in all of Italy, rivaling Comicon in San Diego and Tokyo’s Comiket. It’s called Lucca Comics & Games. How can one resist hanging out in a Renaissance-era gem of a town surrounded by a plethora of fantasy superheroes parading through the streets in full, active cosplay and role-playing?
In recent years dressing up in scary costumes has become quite popular in another small town slightly to the north of Lucca. Nestled at the foot of the Garfagnana Mountain in a little town called Borgo a Mozzano, you will also see also your fair share of ghostly ghouls and vampires. People gather here in this tiny little medieval village during All Saints Day weekend to celebrate the famous Ponte della Maddalena, also known as the “Devil’s Bridge”.
The bridge once served as an important crossing point for pilgrims along the via Francigena on their way to Rome. But the thing that makes the bridge so unusual is its shape. It was built using three asymmetrical arches, to withstand the high flood waters of the Serchio. The resulting effect is that the bridge appears to be lurching to one side. There is all manner of legends that have arisen to explain the bridge’s most curious shape. The most popular being this:
Once upon a time, a king asked his master architect to build a bridge over the River Serchio. The poor guy ran into many problems, and the bridge kept crumbling and falling apart. It was quite a disaster. The king fed up with the architect’s failures, finally gave him an ultimatum: Either you finish the bridge in three weeks and be given a big sack of money…or off with your head. The poor man was scared silly. At this point, the Devil appeared before the architect and promised to build a beautiful bridge. But of course, there was a condition.
The first soul to pass over the bridge would be his for all eternity. The man readily agreed to the Devil’s bargain, but when the King announced he would be the first to cross the bridge the architect panicked. This would not be good for future business! So, to trick the devil he kicked a small dog and sent him scampering over the bridge. The Devil was so mad to have been fooled; he gave the bridge a mighty kick himself. And that explains why the bridge now appears to be lopsided.
If you visit the Bridge in Borgo Mozzano during All Saint’s Eve, along with all the other festive party-goers, you might just happen to catch a glimpse of the Devil himself who is reported to lurk still about the banks of the Serchio in this tiny little town!