The sight of the characteristic Loreto sanctuary, dedicated to the Madonna, with its attractive portico and artistic bell tower will certainly inspire deep spiritual feelings or pleasant sensations at the very least. In the past this was the place where salt was traded with the Piedmontese; it was a legal exchange depot however next to the legal market smuggling was rife due to the onerous and much hated salt duty.

Nevertheless the past is now gone and in the small hamlet of Loreto, with its few houses perched on their rocky outcrops, peace reigns supreme. In the square, a stone memorial is dedicated to the partisans which reminds us of WWII and those that fell in skirmishes on the surrounding mountains. The tiny church with vivid frescoes and hints of antiquity is however not the main local attraction.

A majestic bridge, built in 1958-59 connects the two sides of the river gorge, allowing access to the Mauta area and the Cetta hamlet. The dimensions of this bridge, 112m high, 119m long, 8,20m wide and overhanging the Argentina river, speak for themselves. Built with a revolutionary technique for that time, without any wooden or iron scaffolding, it marked an important change in the road construction industry. Designed by the engineer Scalesse from Rome, the work was undertaken by the Rosario Siniscalchi building firm also from Rome under direction of the engineer Rossello. This work raised some controversy and critiques as reported in the most important newspapers, however its cost was not quite as extravagant as  the “billion liras” reported in the papers’ headlines. In reality the bridge cost just a hundred million liras to build.

From this bridge lovers of bungee jumping used to launch themselves often accompanied by inhumane cries and fantastic twisting and somersaults. Today this is no longer the case, due to safety reasons. Nonetheless, climbers still take on the rocky cliffs while down in the river gorge the bravest tackle the smoothest and most difficult rock walls and boulders.

The romanesque bridge of Mauta, with its sixteen metres arch, built in stonework appears as a toy placed among the tiny statues of a nativity scene; if one follows the mule track down to the river one can admire its beauty and the contrast between the old and the new will appear in all its grandeur: it demonstrates how human ingenuity has no age.



Sandro Oddo