A towering stone edifice with both an enchanting and dark side drops some 120 metres into the Río Guadalevín, stretching across the Tajo de Ronda (Ronda Gorge) to form the Spanish city of Ronda. This world famous bridge, the Puente Nuevo, is the centrepiece of what could well be Spain’s most breathtaking city.
I’d heard quite a bit about the Puente Nuevo before arriving in Ronda. Fortunately, it was everything I’d imagined and a bit more. Ronda’s a small town with plenty to do. Even still, the first thing most visitors do (and I did) is head down to the town centre, stand on the bridge and stare over the edge for a while.
Following this, I walked the popular trail beneath the bridge to the edge of the countryside, where parched rolling hills and craggy mountain ridges envelop the city. Of course it’s pretty difficult not to stare at the Puente Nuevo (new bridge) – from below or above – and wonder just how this spine-tingling construction came about.
Prior to its construction, Ronda already had two bridges, the Puente Roman (Roman bridge) and the Puente Viejo (old bridge). However in the 18th-century it was decided another bridge should connect Ronda across the highest part of the gorge, an area practical for the city’s expansion.
The first bridge attempt was hasty and collapsed just six years after its completion in 1735, pulling 50 unfortunate souls with it into the gorge below. Ten years later, construction on the Puente Nuevo commenced, which took 42 years.
The bridge certainly is both bold and beautiful, containing features such as a chamber in its middle arch which was used as a prison. From here prisoners made spectacularly fatal escapes and during the Spanish Civil War a number of people (including priests) were tossed into the gorge below.
I explored the chamber with my partner and four-year-old. Today it’s a museum that’s accessed by a narrow, caliginous staircase, which gives visitors a hint of the uncertainty prisoners would have faced. There’s also photos and a video inside depicting the bridge’s history and construction, which includes how hulking stone blocks were raised up such a preposterously deep gorge.
When I’m exploring a town, I’ll often search for an old bridge, as they’re nice to look at, sit on and they typically contain good stories. To date, Ronda’s Puente Nuevo is the finest bridge I’ve seen.