The Devil’s Bridge


Frank and I spend several days in Civita. It is a fab location for hikes, so one day we explore the path to the Ponte del Diavolo. On our way through the village, we chat with a family of bakers who invite us to sample some of their freshly baked goods. The business has been in family hands for generations but the young daughter is not so sure she will continue. What are her interests then? Oh, I don’t know… I like going to the gym… Well who knows, maybe one day, all the ovens, including the wood-fired one out the back of the building, will be shut down and instead there will be spinning bikes, treadmills and rowing machines. She wants to see the big wide world to and for this she wants to practise her English on us. Then again, out there, in the big wide world, she might fall in love with a baker who would love to go and live in a little village up a hill in the middle of nowhere, like my friends Robert and Herlene, she Brazilian and he English, who continuously travelled between Brazil and the UK because each wanted to live in the other one’s country.


This village still upholds the traditions they brought with them when they fled to Italy 500 years ago, however, the last couple of generations have begun to intermarry with Italians and so the feel of the town changes. Not everybody speaks the old Arberesh language anymore and the young people orient themselves along the dreams and values of the bigger world around them.


It is a steep walk down to the gorge from the village, and it is well worth the effort. A beautiful, recently restored bridge leads across a very deep gorge, apparently among the longest canyons in Europe. In Summer, one can go on organised trips up the gorge, kitted out with helmets, rope, wet suits etc. Right now, it’s impossible to go upriver. The water has that grey colour that talks of snow-capped mountains and it makes quite an awesome sound as it gushes through the rocks. Nevertheless, as it’s a hot day, Frank and I walk downriver to where it calms down to a manageable speed and brave the icy waters. Afterwards we drape ourselves over hot slabs of stone to defrost.


Although we are pretty well hidden from the path, I feel like someone’s watching us. I scan the hills and the horizon but can’t see anyone, only once a furtive movement in the trees near the bridge. Ah well, whatever.


We complete our walk by following the river downstream, surrounding the foot of the mountain on which the town is perched, then climbing back up through a series of secret gardens and olive groves. We hit the road just 200 mtr below where Emma is – a perfect round walk! Emma is surrounded by sheep when we get back home, and as we chat to the friendly shepherd, he lets slip that he saw us down by the river. I knew I’d felt a pair of eyes on us!



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