One day Mastro* Incerti was working on building a bridge over the Serchio river—a project that absolutely refused to come to an end. Strong currents made it nearly impossible for him to set the foundations for the pillars, and there was no way to hitch up the final arches. For a whole season, flooding had continued to agitate the banks of the wild river, and even the pilgrims going toward Rome had been forced for some time to wait upstream in the Borgo, or to extend their journey considerably. One evening, Mastro Incerti couldn’t take it anymore and, climbing atop the dangerous structures, began shouting at and insulting the devil right then and there. “Why, dammit, do you insist on keeping me from finishing out my work?!” The shouts were so strong that the river, for a moment, calmed and quieted down, and a sort of surprised whistle sounded out behind the head builder.
* “Mastro” meaning head construction worker
“Where do you come from?” the surprised builder asked the foreigner. “From a long journey through the land,” he responded with a cunning-looking smirk. “I have a problem with this bridge that I’m just completely unable to finish.” “Oh, yes, I know that well. Indeed, I heard your cursing!”, the wayfarer said, readjusting his shoulder bag, then adding, “You’re not Blacksmith Rinforzato’s son, are you?” “Yes, he’s my father, but how do you know that?”, asked the suspicious builder. “Everyone in the valley knows your work and no one could have designed a better bridge.” Mastro Incerti extended his arm, “My problem is that, with the fury of these waters, I can’t even get halfway through.” The other man met his gaze intently and held up his palm in front of him. “It should lead to Paradise.” “Oh,” Mastro Incerti responded, “I don’t ask much…the other side of the river would be enough.”
At this point, the pair looked off into the distance as the water continued to flow a bit more calmly than it had in the past few months. “Well, friend,” said the new arrival, “you’re in luck, ‘cause I can help you finishthis bridge.” “Don’t overestimate your strength, newbie,” responded the builder. “I can help you finish the bridge by tomorrow morning,” the other insisted, and with a calm gesture he added, “but I’m taking the soul of the first person who crosses it.” “Oh,” said the Mastro, stiffening up and surmising who he was working with. “Everyone in the valley has been waiting for it for such a long time, I suppose,” he murmured, accepting the proposal with his eyes subdued.
Waving goodbye to
the demon, Mastro Incerti was suddenly overcome
by a huge sense of regret, and ran to the town priest to tell him the
story. The priest came up with a way they could trick the Devil. The morning
after, they decided,, a dog would be the
first to cross the bridge. Fooled through and through, the demon stole its
soul and then left town, infuriated.
Still today, toward the end of every October, there are those who swear they see a Maremman shepherd wandering over the bridge’s main hump in search of the construction worker. Others claim to see the outline of the figure, turned to stone, at the bottom of the river.
But the moral of the story, the takeaway from this legend, is to remind all of you – if you pass through these parts – that, yes, our bridges don’t take you all the way to Paradise, but, if need be, hey, we know how to fool even the Devil himself.