Myths and legends swirl around this mysterious and beautiful medieval bridge that spans the Raganello River in Pollino National Park.
Historians are certain that Il Ponte del Diavolo is medieval. Other than that, little is known, though residents of Civita have a theory that it was built by the devil himself. According to local legend, a farmer who needed to cross the river made a deal with the devil to exchange a bridge for the first soul to cross it. After it was built, however, the farmer tricked the devil by sending a flock of sheep over the bridge, denying him a human soul. Feel a hint of the bridge’s supernatural reputation in its almost magical beauty stretching across a deep gorge.
Leave Civita’s charming town center and start down the zigzag hike to the bridge, which stands high above the valley floor. Admire the sheer cliff walls, formed not by erosion but the seismic energy that in the distant past made Pollino National Park a hotbed of volcanic activity. Notice the way that shifting shadows cast different colors along the path.
The bridge is a simple donkey arch that curves gracefully over the river below. Listen to the water softly gurgle over the rocks and look along the river to the light peeking in at the other end of the gorge. Imagine the reverence the town’s inhabitants gave to the stonework, said to be so strong that even the devil himself, enraged by the farmer’s trick, could not destroy it. As the day warms, continue on to the river for a splash in the cool, shady water.
Il Ponte del Diavolo is just east of Civita’s center. Set off on foot down the steep staircase that winds down the gorge, which takes between 20 and 40 minutes from the village center. Otherwise, Jeep services ferry visitors up and down from the town center for a small fee. For convenience, walk down and take the Jeep back up. Bringing personal vehicles down to the bridge is not permitted, but the town itself has ample parking.