Before 1862, Bagni di Lucca was called Bagno a Corsena. The town's history, however, dates back to 1101 when the Countess Matilda of Tuscany had the Ponte della Maddalena (The Devil's Bridge) built so that she could reach Bagni di Lucca for its natural springs. In 1245, the Emperor Frederick II set out to visit it with all his court, while in 1304 the inhabitants of the spa were exempted from military service and the thermal springs made Bagno a Corsena a European resort.
Poets, artists and personalities such as Michel de Montaigne, Ippolito d'Este, Vittorio Alfieri, Ferdinad Ill Grand Duke of Tuscany, Paolina Borghese, the sister of Napoleon, Metternich, Field Marshall Radestsky, Shelley, Byron, Montesquieu, Puccini, Toscanini and Montale all visited the town, taking the waters and socializing. Bagni di Lucca is today a charming spa town, nestled in the green valley of the river Lima at the foot of the Apennines. This position gives it something of a mountain resort feel in spite of its actual altitude of just less than 500 ft above sea level. Consisting of three major centres, "Villa", "Ponte a Serraglia" and "Fornoli", it's surrounded by a gathering of villages and hamlets and the whole area is rich in artistic and natural beauties.
The Devil's Bridge has a wonderfully interesting legend and definitely deserves a visit while in the area. Many years ago a clever and respected master builder lived in a village on the banks of the Serchio River. The inhabitants of the village approached him, asking him to build a bridge to connect their village with the one across the river. He immediately set to work, but he soon saw that the work was not progressing as quickly as he'd promised his fellow citizens it would, and being a man of his word and one who always fulfilled his obligations, he became very unhappy and desperate.
He continued to put great effort into the work day and night so as to finish the task within the time allowed for in the contract, but the work continued to proceed very slowly while the days flew by. One evening while the builder was sitting alone on the banks of the Serchio looking at the work and thinking of the shame and discredit he would suffer for not having completed it in time, the devil appeared to him in the form of a respectable businessman. He went straight up to the builder telling him that he'd be able to finish the bridge in a single night.
The man didn't believe what the devil was saying, but listened anyway, and in the end accepted his proposal. Naturally the devil wanted something in return: the builder was to undertake to give him the soul of the first person that crossed the bridge when it was completed. The builder accepted and the following day the village had its beautiful bridge that can still be seen today in Borgo a Mozzano.
The people were stunned and unable to believe what had been accomplished, and went to congratulate this craftsman who ordered them not to cross the bridge before sunset. In the meantime, the builder got on his horse, a little worried if the truth be told, and set off for Lucca to ask the Bishop for advice. At that time the Bishop was San Frediano. This saintly man told him not to worry and to allow the devil to take the soul of the first person to cross the bridge, and told him to let a pig cross first. This was done and the devil, furious at having been tricked, threw himself into the waters of the Serchio, and has not been seen in the area since.