Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, Tuscany

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, ItalyDear Art Lover,

     A couple of our friends and colleagues from the recent Tuscan symposium also had participated in a symposium for wood carving in the forest near Abetone, Italy (famous for skiing in the winter, blueberry festival in August).  So, quarry owner Marco Nardini took Kumiko Suzuki and me to this forest in Pian di Novello, slightly southwest of Abetone.

     As we wound through the curvy roads through the mountains, Marco asked us if we were afraid of heights.  We said we were game for what he had in mind and thus before we arrived to the symposium site, we found ourselves walking across the “ponte sospeso” (Suspended Bridge) in Comune di San Marcello Pistoiese.

     According to a sign on the site once one crosses the bridge, the longest suspension on a bridge is 1991 meters for the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge in Japan.  It has intermediate supports that span as much as 282 meters!  

     Marco told us that when he was a kid, this footbridge we were on (called the Ironworks Suspension Bridge) was rope and wood slats, with some of those missing.  It was more terrifyingly exciting than it is today, although, of course, much more dangerous and swinging movement.  The original bridge was only intended to be around for a few years.  It was built to aid workers from Popiglio get to the metallurgical plant of Mammiamo Basso quicker, shaving several kilometers [one way] off of their daily trip across the river.

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy
This sign is in front of a small, unassuming park that contains the entrance to the bridge

     The work was started in 1920, and S.M.L. ordered the plant closed in 1931 to focus manufacturing in Campotizzoro.  However, the bridge was so admired by all, and the designer Vincenzo Douglas-Scotti (1877-1937) praised, that the bridge not only remained, but was recreated in the materials one sees today. In 1980 it was reworked and again improved in 2004.  In 2014, solar-powered LED lights were added, making the bridge more beautiful. 

A quote from one of the signs there:
“The Area of the Suspension Bridge

     Since prehistoric times, the valley of the Lima torrent, the greatest tributary of the Serchio River, represented a route for penetrating and crossing the Apennines by nomad hunters and later Roman armies or medieval travelers.  The flat areas, now dominated by the suspension bridge, offered an ideal place for resting or camping, which is evidenced by the recent archaeological finds of worked flints dating back to the Epigravettian period (late epipaleolithic – about 9/10,000 years before Christ and ceramic fragments from the Roman Age, which are now preserved in the Naturalistic Archaeological Centre of the Pistoia Apennine, based in Campotizzoro and the Civic Museum of Natural Sciences and Archaeology of Val di Nievole.

     At that time the Lima torrent, like the Limestre torrent and the other main tributaries offered ideal conditions for setting up numerous hydraulic plants.  Think of the mills built to transform chestnuts into sweet flour, the main local foodstuff, and the pioneering Cini paper mills and many ironworks.

     The Magona Granducale, a Tuscan company regulated by a monopolistic regime for the production of iron in 1704, started with building the plants of Mammiano Basso, which soon became the largest production center in the area of Pistoia.

     When Magona was abolished in 1836, the production of iron and steel in Mammiano continued despite the subsequent numerous transfers of the structures, which finally ended up at the S.M.I. (Italian Metallurgical Company) at the end of the nineteenth century.

     It was during this period that the engineer Vicenzo Douglas-Scotti, who designed the bridge, was called upon to manage the plant.  Today, the area continues to be of great interest for its hydroelectric production, which is also implemented by using part of the canalizations and pipes that were originally created for the Magona plants.”

The Ironworks Suspension Bridge is free to walk across and admire the views.


P.S.  I woke this morning to an e-mail from my father asking if I was safe from the earthquake.  I was unaware of another one in Italy.  It occurred during the night last night and it looks devastating.  It was south of Tuscany, but tremendous.  As I write this, rescue workers are still searching to save anyone under the rubbish that they can. 

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy
Marco and Kumiko enjoy the Ironworks Suspended Bridge

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy metalwork, screws

Ironworks Suspended Bridge, near Abetone, Italy


This content is not yet available over encrypted connections.