The Velino river scenically winds a slow path around the historical city center of Rieti, a town located in Sabina, north-east of Rome.
When crossing the modern bridge (Ponte Romano or Ponte Velino) visitors will notice the sunken remains of an old Roman bridge in the waters below.
The bridge, constructed in the opus quadratum technique, was designed after the conquest of Sabina by the Romans during the 3rd-century BCE. It was part of the ancient Roman road the Via Salaria that allowed access to Reate (modern Rieti) which at the time was a thriving agricultural center. The bridge was restored under the reign of Emperor Claudius in 42 CE and fortified during the Middle Ages with the addition of several towers.
By the late 19th-century, extensive deforestation caused the Velino river to swell regularly and threatened the stability of the bridge. The bridge being the only crossing across the Velino was particularly strategic, as any flooding would interrupt the entire Salaria network.
Initially during the 1920s, engineers planned to dismantle the bridge and recycle its components to build a higher and safer structure. However, the project proved to be to costly and ambitious. The bridge was demolished and replaced by a cement bridge in 1939. It was named Ponte XXVIII Ottobre as a memorial of Mussolini’s March on Rome. However, this bridge had a short life as German forces destroyed it and a new crossing was constructed during the 1950s.
The town of Rieti has been interested in reconstructing the old bridge, but no realistic proposals have been put forth to this day.