The “Ponte a romajolo” over the small gully of Rignalla

The “pian di Ripoli”, now partly built up, was one of the most fertile areas around Florence. However, until the 16th Century it was partly occupied by the bed of the Arno which widened into a series of secondary streams which covered a very extensive area as can be seen from the “map of the Arno to the east of Florence” (1504, Windsor RL12679) realised by Leonardo da Vinci probably as part of the studies of the Arno for which he was commissioned by the Florentine Republic.
The area then appeared very different from how it does now and the roads too followed several routes which rose rapidly towards the slopes near the Arno. It is by following these ancient routes, which have partly disappeared, that we understand the position of the “Ponte a Romajolo” or “re-enforced” bridge, a construction of great architectural quality over the small gully of Rignalla and which can now only be reached by following footpaths.
This construction, probably of medieval origin, has been saved and restored by the Consorzio di Bonifica 3 Medio Valdarno, thanks to the work of the architect Marco Parrini with a restoration that allowed to rediscover the architecture and the walls connected to the bridge itself.
The term "rinserrato" (re-enforced) indicated the presence of walls to contain the water and protect the bridge which, in the case of heavy rainfall or flooding, would have been damaged by erosion of the steep, fragile banks.
The architecture of the bridge has interesting similarities with the drawing which accompanies Leonardo da Vinci's notes on the construction of arches: “The arch will not collapse, if the chord of the arch does not touch the inside of the opening. This is evident from experience... L’arco non si romperà, se la corda de l’archi di fori non tocchi di dentro. Questo appare per isperienza, […]” (Leonardo da Vinci, Ms. A, f. 51r)
The bridge was situated on the road which led from Florence to Villamagna where, in the second half of the 18th Century the priest, Ferdinando Paoletti, was one of the most influential agronomists in Italy, and it remained in use until the last century when the roads of the area were destined to change with the construction of the provincial road which follows the course of the Arno. Today it is accessible by turning right off the Via di Rosano towards Pontassieve, going along the road for Rignalla for a short distance and then following a footpath which crosses a private property and leads into a wood where it runs parallel to the Rignalla gully.

Texts by
Daniele Vergari / English translation by Nina Brown