The Ponte delle Torri medieval aqueduct has spanned wooded slopes to link two Umbrian hill forts since the 14th century. It’s still inspiring artists
It’s no surprise that Umbria’s Ponte delle Torri stopped JMW Turner in his tracks on his way to Rome in 1819, to become the subject of a later blurry, heat-hazed oil on canvas. The 230m long medieval aqueduct and bridge rises to a height of 80m above the Tessino Torrent and sits on nine huge piers, curiously separated by arches of differing dimensions, to link two hilltop fortresses.
Perhaps the same view gave American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt pause for thought 150 years later when he set up a studio there, attracting the likes of Henry Moore, Alexander Calder, Cy Twombly and Isamo Noguchi; some of whose work came to feature in the town’s 1962 exhibition ‘Scultura nella Citta’. Even the future-gazing Buckminster Fuller proved susceptible to its ancient charms; his 1967 ‘Spoletosfera’ geodesic dome still sits like a mischievous kid on the naughty step of the old town’s southern fringe.
It was documenting some sculptures from that period, like Calder’s Teodelapio, that recently drew London-based Agnese Sanvito back to Italy and Spoleto. Overlooked among grander Umbrian hilltop jewels, its relative anonymity appealed to Italian composer Gian Carlo Menotti in 1958. His arts festival here started it all, and continues to this day. Sanvito chose not to be distracted by the town’s Roman ruins and Romanesque Duomo, training her lens instead on the aqueduct, to catch the structure freshly floodlit in the twilight. The bridge appears from, and sinks back into, the Monteluco – ‘sacred wood’.
Here, since the third century BC, it has been protected by the Lex Luci Spoletina, a Latin-inscribed cube of stone set on the hill, assigning its evergreen oaks in perpetuity to the god Jupiter, exacting punishment on those who would desecrate it. Sanvito’s sodium-tinted view, an evocation of amber flames licking their way up through the ancient trees, proves a timely reminder of the mythological wrath that humans now require no incensed deity to bring upon themselves.