Bridges have forever held a certain timeless charm. Their importance in the past, as a way of opening up new communication and trading routes, gave rise to myths and legends which have survived to this day.
Visiting them during autumn, when the leaves on the trees take on the many-coloured warm hues typical of the season, makes them even more spectacular.
This itinerary in the Modena Apennines leads you to discover the various bridges which straddle the Scoltenna river, culminating in an easy trek that leads as far as Hercules’ Bridge, deep in the woods.
Starting out from Pievepelago we come to Fola Bridge, a masterpiece of engineering dating to the Medieval period, the only stone bridge with two arches in the whole of Emilia. Looking up at it from below, it seems as if the bridge is suspended in the air, surrounded by lush, green vegetation.
At its feet lie large boulders, evidence of previous landslides, and debris which the force of the river Scoltenna has carried down the valley. The path which crosses over it is part of Saint Bartholomew’s Way, a path that connects all the places dedicated to the veneration of the saint in Emilia and nearby Tuscany.
But what does “fola” mean? There are various interpretations: it could derive from the Italian word “favola”, a legend or fairy-tale, in reference to the stories shared and handed down by the shepherds and travellers whose paths once crossed near this charming spot.
Continuing on towards Riolunato the Moon Bridge is undoubtedly worth a visit. The current bridge dates back to a reconstruction which took place after a disastrous landslide destroyed the older bridge in 1786.
On both sides of the bridge there are stone corbels that originally acted as cantilevers to support the parapet walls, allowing almost the entire width of the vault to be utilized for the roadway.
Moving on to the historic hamlet of Olina, which comes under the municipality of Pavullo nel Frignano, we come across an incredibly unique architectural structure, with a dizzying height: Olina Bridge.
The construction of the bridge dates back to 1522 and was directly commissioned by the Montecuccoli family and the magistrate of Sestola, but in reality, the rulers of Florence and Lucca also pushed for its construction so as to make the area of Frignano a “bridge” between Tuscany and Emilia.
Like most places of note in the Modena Apennines, this one also has its own legend. The popular story is set at the beginning of the XV century and tells of how anyone who passes over the bridge on a dark and stormy night can hear a strangled and breathless voice crying out for help as if someone has been thrown off the bridge.
Finally, the itinerary continues in the direction of Hercules’ Bridge, about 15 minutes by car from Olina Bridge.
You can leave your car in the carpark located in Via Ponte d’Ercole, which is signposted shortly before Lama Mocogno: the itinerary starts from the carpark and is indicated by the red and white CAI (Italian Mountain Club) signs. It is an easy trail, suitable for all, and lasts about 30-40 minutes.
Where the municipalities of Lama Mocogno, Polinago and Pavullo nel Frignano meet, there is a distinctive natural monolith known as Hercules’ Bridge.
It is a natural bridge, 3 metres high and 33 metres long, linking the two sides of a hollow in the ground. A single sandstone rock, surrounded by dense vegetation, and shaped in the form of an arch by erosion and atmospheric agents.
An air of mystery has always surrounded the bridge, also known as the Devil’s Bridge, firing popular imagination. Settlements and necropoles from the Roman period have also been discovered at the site.