Are you not familiar with the legend of Boccaccio’s crystal bridge, which the writer of the Decameron had built by the Devil himself? Please allow us to introduce you to this story.
Certaldo Alto, the small medieval village where Giovanni Boccaccio was born and raised, lies on a hilltop. Two small slopes embrace this hill, Poggio del Boccaccio (Boccaccio’s hilltop) and Poggio delle Fate (Fairies’ hilltop). Poggio alle Fate was already inhabited in the ancient times. It seems it was used by the Romans as a silo to preserve the products of the fields. The small residential hamlet now lying on its top originates from an old shelter where the pilgrims of the Via Francigena used to find refuge.
Poggio del Boccaccio is instead completely bare and shows a particular shape: trapezoidal, like a headless pyramid and seemingly made by men. We already covered the topic of the strangeness of this hill and the tales that connect it rumors of an underground net of tunnels leading to Certaldo Alto. Archeological sites run during the 70’s – unluckily suspended – revealed this place to have been an Etruscan necropolis.
But let us disclose the legend of the crystal bridge…
The life of Giovanni Boccaccio is already a mystery per se: the father is a well-known Florentine merchant, while the mother is nameless. She was rumored to be a noblewoman from Paris, where Boccaccio’s father frequently travelled for his business. Or worse still, a servant girl. Despite the boy being illegitimate, he managed to receive a papal dispensation and become a cleric, in order to have a fixed income and being able to cultivate his passion for literature.
Another great passion of the scholar – it seems – were women, and the legend of the crystal bridge seems to have arisen from this circumstance. After all, we can only imagine the allure that such a character might have instilled in the hearts of the simple-minded inhabitants of a small peasant village, lost in the countryside – when this was not yet ‘Tuscany’ and not at all so glamorous – who mainly dedicated to the harsh cultivation of onions.
Legend has it that Boccaccio used to walk through the underground tunnels connecting Certaldo Alto with the hilltop nearby for not-so-legitimate purposes. It is here that, according to the legend, he strikes a pact with the Devil himself. He offers to build Boccaccio an invisible crystal bridge which, from the medieval village of Certaldo Alto and his native home, brings him directly to the adjacent hill, where he regularly meets with a coven of witches.
Check by yourself!
Our advice is to take a walk in the Parco Collinare di Canonica and hike up onto Poggio del Boccaccio. From here you can enjoy a wonderful view over the historical centre of Certaldo and over the underlying valley. A small effort of imagination and you will be able to see the much-rumored crystal bridge of Giovanni Boccaccio.