Bruscheto: the Mill and the Hannibal Bridge

In Incisa Valdarno, near Florence, the remains of a bridge with a long history

On board one of the many trains that cross the Valdarno, near Incisa, one can catch a glimpse for a few moments of an unusual place, in contrast to the surrounding settlement and industrial landscape. To the east of the tracks dominate on the bank of the Arno the ruins of the ancient Bruscheto mill, one of several mills of medieval origin that had sprung up in the area precisely to take advantage of the river's vigorous current. The structure, which clearly bears witness to modern renovations, was inhabited by the last miller until the 1970s, a memory still vivid in the memories of some of the residents of the hamlet of Bruscheto.

The abandonment of the mill was caused, as with so many other contexts, by a loss of functionality, in this case as a result of the damage caused by the abundant and overwhelming waters that flowed in that famous 1966 Florence flood. Today it appears to us like this, ruined and unsafe, with windows that give a glimpse of the forest behind and the wild vegetation that colors its facade. In front of it, almost like an extension of it, appears the bridge that made it possible to cross the Arno and thus to pass from the territory of the present municipality of Incisa to that of Reggello.

The origin of the structure, attested to the medieval period, is traced by legend to Roman times when the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal crossed the bridge to move his battles toward Rome. The fact remains that, together with the much better-known Ponte Vecchio in Florence, it constitutes, in the Florentine area, the only medieval bridge that has survived to the present day. However, as was the case with the mill, the bridge, which had remained intact for hundreds of years, was also severely damaged by the rush of the 1966 flood.

The ancient bridge called Annibale, in front of the Bruscheto mill

To this day the bridge remains unusable, and during periods of flooding, it barely emerges above the surface of the water, a construction feature that has enabled it to endure to the present day. The rather unsafe mill can be visited from the outside and is accessible from the Bruscheto locality via a path through the trees that run along the river bank. Placed opposite the high-speed rail tracks, it appears today as a lost and out-of-time place that is particularly evocative, perhaps precisely because of its precarious condition.

Because of its importance as a historical and cultural asset, we point out the possibility of voting it among FAI's "Places of the Heart," especially in a future perspective of protection and enhancement.