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Michele Angileri

Gola di Ponte Lupo

The most majestic and spectacular among the bridges with which the ancient roman aqueducts crossed the deep tuffaceous valleys east of the city is called "Ponte Lupo" ("Wolf Bridge"). It is part of Aqua Marcia, the third aqueduct of ancient Rome in chronological order, which owes its name to Quinto Marcio Re, the praetor of Rome at the time of its construction. Over the centuries, the original structure of the bridge was reinforced with arches and supporting walls which ended up covering it almost completely, thus transforming its appearance. Today Ponte Lupo is a huge wall up to 18 m thick and 115 m long closing the valley like a dam, letting water flow through two large openings supported by arches. The landscape of the most authentic Roman countryside develops around the bridge: cultivated fields are in the valley bottoms and on the tufaceous plateaus, while thick woods cover the steep sides of the valleys. Some parts of these valleys are wild canyons that preserve a primordial nature that survives the strong anthropization of the territory, a nature unimaginable for anyone except for those who venture along these streams.

Upstream of Ponte Lupo the stream runs through one of these canyons, the deepest in the area. Collapsed trees, slippery boulders and puddles hinder... no, enrich the path between walls that are sometimes bare but more often covered with lush vegetation. Far from the bridge the puddles and boulders gradually become larger and more frequent, and some climbing is needed to pass little waterfalls. Then, suddenly, the environment becomes wider and you reach the foot of the San Giovanni in Campo Orazio Fall, dry for most of the year but sometimes hosting a jet of water that falls from 55 m. In every case, an extraordinary place.

Name Gola di Ponte Lupo
Area Lazio
Nearest village Gallicano nel Lazio
Elevation loss 90 m
Length 2 km
Highest cascade m
Rock Tuff, travertine
Shuttle No
Explored by ???
San Giovanni in Campo Orazio waterfall: De Santis, Arena, Ronchetti; May 6th 2021


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The restoration and consolidation works carried out during the period in which the Marcio Aqueduct functioned gave Ponte Lupo its absolutely unique beauty and allowed it to survive the millennia better than the other bridges of the ancient Roman aqueducts in the area. The last consolidation works on the bridge date back to the times of Emperor Diocletian, and in the following 18 centuries up to the present day, time has left its marks. The profound fascination aroused by the vision of this water giant is also due to these marks, to its resistance to vegetation assaults, to its emergence from the silence of the Roman countryside as a flash of truth on the eternal questions of Man: who are we? what is it all about? where are we going?

But Ponte Lupo will not survive the decades without further restoration and consolidation works, aimed no longer at restoring its functionality (lost for too long now) but at preserving it as it is: old, imposing, solitary. That's why Urbano Barberini, the owner of the land where the bridge stands, theater, movie and TV actor, descendant of families of the Roman nobility, started an awareness campaign on Ponte Lupo a few years ago. Although Italian law (Legislative Decree 42/2004) states that owners or custodians of assets belonging to the cultural heritage are required to guarantee their conservation, the cost of restoring Ponte Lupo is too high for a private citizen or society (with no financial return). Moreover, such a unique monument deserves to be made accessible to public.
So in 2010 Barberini attempted to bring public attention to Ponte Lupo by provocatively announcing that it would be put on sale at the price of 1 euro, on the condition that buyer carried out the restoration of the monument. The provocation brought some attention to Ponte Lupo but no company or private citizen purchased the bridge (confirming the uneconomical nature of the restoration) and not even the Italian State took charge of the issue.
Barberini, however, has not given up: he continues to carry out initiatives aimed at the cultural enjoyment of Ponte Lupo and the conservation of the bridge and the surrounding area, involving anyone who shares these objectives: private citizens, associations, public bodies, foundations, ... Initiatives that are part of a broader objective of protection and cultural enjoyment of the Roman countryside, landscape and monuments.
It is worth mentioning the establishment of the association Ponte Lupo - Gigante dell'acqua, which organizes the homonymous festival (in 2023 its third edition) of cultural events around the Bridge.

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