🏰 Delle Catene bridge
The bridge was designed by architect Lorenzo Nottolini to connect Chifenti with the village of Fornoli.
The bridge was built in 1840 by order of Carlo Ludovico di Borbone, after a flood of the Lima river had destroyed an older bridge in 1836.
The Duke of Lucca wantedW the road to Bagni di Lucca, a very fashionable spa town at that time, to have a state-of-the-art construction, and he sent Nottolini to study the suspension bridges in England.
The construction of the bridge was interrupted due to bureaucratic problems when the Duchy of Lucca was annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1847. The works were completed, following the project of Nottolini, in 1860 at the behest of Bettino Ricasoli. The two plaques on the arches, one in Latin and the other in Italian, testify to this.
It suffered serious damage during the Second World War, with the whole walkway falling into the river. However, after the end of the war in 1953 it was rebuilt according to the original design.
The structure of the bridge, with its wide panoramic terraces that allow access to the walkway, is designed to make it also a meeting place and a social centre for the town, not just a way to cross the stream.
The construction was based on the innovative use of industrial iron techniques, through suspension with chains and a complex underground mechanism that keeps the chains in tension.
At the two ends of the bridge there are two triumphant arches with as many as 16 niches in which we do not know what was supposed to be placed. From Nottolini’s design it also seems that, over the two bases that hide the chains, two lions were to be placed, one on the right and the other on the left.
The walkway, once used for carts, is made of wood. The chains pass through two openings in the arches where there are rollers on which they slide. From there they descend into the two stone bases located on the terraces and then disappear underground where they are anchored.
On the Chifenti side the chains are only anchored to pillars of stone and iron, and can be viewed simply by lifting the lid of the pedestals, while on the Fornoli side, under the bridge there is an iron gate that enters the stone basement at the river level.
Inside there are tunnels that lead to a space where the chains are anchored with a device that keeps them in tension. The central span of the chains supports the deck of the bridge itself by means of iron rods called stralli which have at their ends an inverted anchor attached to the double chains, two internal that are coupled together and another two on the two sides.
The bridge today is equipped with a handrail in wood and iron, but this particular detail was added only after the complete renovation in 2003 with the intervention of the Province of Lucca and with the contribution of the American Express World Monument Fund.
Our Chain Bridge is the first bridge made of iron and wood in Italy.