The Appiano Bridge: the last testimony of the Appian Way in Mirabella

by Federico Quagliuolo

It has always been known in the area as "Ponterotto", While the Romans called it"Eppan Bridge”And in 1980 it is a work he has accomplished 2000 years of life. It was used to connect Beneventum a Aeclanum (the current Mirabella Eclano) and was a fundamental point of the Via Appia, the most important road in the ancient world.

We don't fall in error: being now aesthetically similar to the Red Bridges, some think it's a piece ofSerino aqueduct. In reality it was a road bridge.

To date it is also a essential point for scholars of ancient Roman works, as from Benevento to Puglia there are no more certain testimonies the presence of the "Queen of all streets“: The presence of the ruins of Ponterotto is the only way to understand the route of the Via Appia in Sannio.

Appiano Bonito Bridge
The Appiano Bridge today, photo by Federico Quagliuolo

The Ponte Appiano, connection between the Adriatic and the Tyrrhenian

While today the Appiano Bridge is surrounded by guys who they run with motocross bikes and quads in the muddy ground, about a millennium ago the same marshy area was crossed by Norman knights columns, as they prepared to conquer all of Southern Italy with Ruggiero II. And even earlier, 2000 years ago, he put his feet in it too the emperor Augustus.

The bridge was almost certainly born as wood texture indicatively around the 20 BC and we can understand its evolutions by looking at just what remains of those arcs that they proudly ruled emperors, kings, and entire peoples. Under Trajan, In the II Century, the Appiano Bridge was updated and made in the form we see today, with 8 stone arches: 4 in water and the rest planted on the ground. The roadway was about 4 meters wide and the bridge was 142 meters long. We know this information thanks to a Roman plaque discovered in the area in 1865, now gone.

All around us there is today less and nothing: we are in the middle of Agro Caleno, in the center of a farm divided between Bonito, Calvi, Mirabella Eclano and Apice. At the time of the Romans the landscape did not have to be very different, with the difference that the current ground had to be wet from the waters of the river Calore and, on the way, we would have seen pass caravans of merchants which led to Rome i foreign products unloaded in Taranto.

Appiano Bridge Ponte Rotto Mirabella
The structure of the arches and the different construction techniques are well noted

Once in these parts there was one of the "stationes“, One of the many refreshment points and military checkpoints scattered along the Appian Way, also useful for change horses.

Even after the fall of the Empire the structure continued to be used and we have news of latest updates in medieval times, with Ruggiero the Norman. When Benevento was ruled by the Papal State, for political reasons they were in fact made new roads from the Normans in order to reach the Adriatic provinces. And the Roman Bridge was abandoned until it came carried away, piece by piece, by the rushing River Heat, which will bring so much trouble even to the most modern Maria Cristina bridge in the 19th century.

However, we have news of the fact that the bridge was frequented until the sixteenth century (but the facility was extremely run down) and maybe to make it collapse was the earthquake of 1688, which was strong enough to raze to the ground Cerreto Sannita.

Ponte Appiano Ponte Rotto
Under the last surviving arch of the Ponte Rotto

A bridge of legends

Like all bridges, the Appiano Bridge also has its legend. This bridge was nicknamed by the locals "Ponte del Diavolo". If it sounds similar tohomonymous medieval aqueduct of Salerno, it will not surprise us even to discover the continuation of the story.

A black magician, such Pietro Bailardo, he forgot a book of magic in these parts, said "Tome of Power", which allowed a man to to have the devil build the bridge.

And today, that last arch of the bridge is stubbornly remained standing after two millennia, plundered, mortified, abandoned in an open countryside he miraculously saves from uncontrolled constructions of the 1960s.
And now it's there, lonely as an elder which, despite the cruel jokes of age, survives waiting for someone to hear his story.

-Federico Quagliuolo

Roman roads
Franca Molinaro, Via Appia and Ponte Appiano

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