f you walk along the broad and very long corso dei Mille, after a while you reach piazza Scaffa where you can see an absolutely unusual structure, of great historic interest and symbol of a lost past (in fact under it flowed the river Oreto). It is the Admiral’s Bridge, built in the Norman period and named after the person who want it to be erected, that is George of Antioch, great admiral of the king Roger II, who had already ordered the construction of the church of Martorana.
At the beginning it was actually a bridge, but unfortunately nowadays it is quite strange. In fact, Admiral’s Bridge has still its original appearance but under it there is nothing to be crossed. In the past the reality was different because it two opposite sides of the river Oreto. But then the river of our city has changed its course, making the bridge useless.
Admiral’s Bridge is made of seven receding archivolts that become smaller and smaller on either side and alternate with smaller arches made in the pillars. The structure is made of tuff bricks that made it to stand over the centuries; moreover, it is so solid that could carry very heavy weight without damage. They have made only a few modifications to this monument of the Norman Arab Palermo: in 17th and 18th century the Senate of the city approved two reinforcement plans, because river Oreto, that is quite small now, used to overflow its banks often (in fact, in 19th century people could even fish salmon).
In 1931 a frightening flood covered Palermo and river Oreto overflowed its banks, but Admiral’s Bridge, almost 1000 years old, resisted without any damage.
Moreover, Admiral’s Bridge is a place of great historic interest because close to it took place an important battle between the men of Giuseppe Garibaldi and the Bourbon soldiers. The former won and succeeded in freeing Sicily and south Italy from Bourbon domain. That crucial moment of the Sicilian and Italian history is remembered by the name of the street where the Admiral’s Bridge is, therefore called corso dei Mille (Avenue of the Thousand) to honour Garibaldi’s ‘picciotti’. Even the great painter Renato Guttuso represented this epic fight in one of his works.
The writer Gaspare Palermo described Admiral’s Bridge as follows: “very wide, in fact, four carriages can cross it at the same time”. Also Villabianca (18th-19th century) in his ‘Diary’ wrote nice things about the Bridge stating that still at his time it ‘honoured the happy city’.