Sfalassà Bridge in Bagnara Calabra: One of the Tallest Bridges in the World

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Tucked neatly in the upper left hand corner of the above photo is the Sfalassa Bridge in Bagnara Calabra, Calabria.  The Sfalassa Bridge crosses both the Lucanian and Calabrian Apennines mountain range in southern Italy and is part of the the Autostrada Napoli-Reggio Calabria or A3 highway.
With dozens of tunnels and towering bridges, it is a showcase of Italian engineering. The last few miles of the motorway traverse some of the most spectacular coastal terrain in all of Italy. Crossing the deepest of these ravines is the Sfalassà gorge bridge, the highest and longest span frame bridge in the world. Rising 820 feet (250 mtrs) above the canyon floor, the bridge was the 3rd highest in the world upon its opening in 1974. The main span measures 1,181 feet (360 mtrs) between the pins of the two 500 foot (152 mtr) long angled box beam struts.

A frame bridge combines elements of an arch bridge and a beam bridge. In an arch bridge, the support follows a continuous curve from one foundation to another. In a frame bridge, the road deck is supported by two inclined piers that are straight. These two struts usually support 3 horizontal beam spans that carry the roadway on top.
To construct Sfalassà, the two struts were built vertically like a 50 story skyscraper and then lowered out over either side of the gorge to an angle of approximately 50 degrees. Held back by a large temporary truss and several cable stays, the struts finally supported the roadway after the central span was completed. The design is credited to Silvano Zorzi, Lucio Lonardo and Sabatino Procaccia.


I remember crossing the bridge as both a child and an adult during our vacations in Calabria and the bridge has always impressed me, especially looking up from the Violet Coast / Mare Tirreno or Tyrrhenian Sea.  
Also located in Calabria is the Viadotto Italia in Laino Borgo.  The Viadotto is also part of the same A3 highway system.  If you love Italy and beautiful drives (including mountain passes, driving in tunnels, spectacular ocean views, etc.), then head to Calabria and rent a small sports car in early summer and have at it!

(photo: Sfalassa Bridge courtesy of Francesco Romeo.)

(photo: the Viadotto Italia, courtesy of HighestBridges.com)
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6 Comments

  1. From the time I visited southern Italy I remember how mountainous and varied the landscape is, which lends itself to bridges and tunnels through the mountains and passes. It is a beautiful region which is visible from the road and railroads. Happy Holidays!

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