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The Roman Bridge of Fossato di Vico1


[image ALT: An old bridge with a single semi-cylindrical arch, of mixed brick and stone, over a small stream in some fairly dense cover.]

This bridge over a creek called the Riga ("Line") is very small; it thus escaped the wholesale destruction of Roman bridges thruout Italy by retreating German troops in 1943‑44.

The best impression of the bridge as a whole can be got from the following photo of its single arch, taken from the west. If much of its present appearance is due to restoration — the brick facing is certainly modern, and some of the stone has surely been reconstructed over the centuries — there is, however, no mistaking the typically sturdy yet attractive opus quadratum in the two courses at the base and in the remains of the N abutment in the background.


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[image ALT: zzz] This view of the top of the bridge, the Roman roadway long gone, shows just how small it is. Now there was a secondary branch of the Via Flaminia, that left the main trunk of the road in this general area (Helvillum in Roman times) and headed towards Ancona; that's certain. Some believe that this is the first bridge of that diverticulum or secondary road, though, and that's less certain. I haven't studied this yet, but have mixed feelings: it certainly could only allow one carriage to pass at a time; on the other hand, traffic on a trans-Apennine road in northern Umbria must have been quite light, and most of the time you'd be the only carriage in sight.

The useful and rather detailed map of Roman roads in Italy in Guida alle antiche strade romane (DeAgostini, 1992) marks a turnoff to Ancona following the Esino river, as does the modern SS 76 highway about 50 m from here; the Laterza archaeological guide for Umbria and the Marche (1988, p178) prudently says nothing.


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A closeup of the Roman masonry in the N abutment: the partially visible uppermost course is modern restoration. (See also my diary entry for Sep. 23, 1998.)


Additional Note:

1 On my most recent visit to this bridge, in the spring of 2004, I found it had been cleaned and that it had sprouted signs calling it "Ponte S. Giovanni". What the origin of this name might be, I have no idea. During the three months I lived in Fossato in 2000, I never heard it so referred to, and there is no nearby church by that name which would account for the moniker; no printed reference in my possession so refers to it, either.

(And if you've tumbled on this page looking for a Ponte S. Giovanni in Umbria, it's in fact very likely the small town by that name near Perugia, whose prominence is due to an important rail station.) 
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Page updated: 10 Jul 12