Many of them are wrongly called Roman bridges or have even lost the rivers that flowed beneath them due to changes in their course. They can have one arch, three, and up to ten. Some are a necessary part of the route that pilgrims must take; some have been a meeting point for the neighbours for almost ten centuries, or a site for offerings for fertility rites. All of them will make your memories of the Rías Baixas all the more authentic, for you will have taken one step further upon the history of those stones which, up until now, were no more than that, stones.
Ever since their beginnings as settlements, the coastal municipalities of the Rías Baixas were important commercial centres, creating villages and towns around them, shaping their cultural identity and being pioneers of civil architecture. Their aim has always been to improve the lives of their inhabitants, contributing to the development and communication between the areas that are now cities and the ones that used to be lands and domains not so many centuries back.
An accurate reflection of this union is the amount of bridges to be found on the south coast of Rías Baixas, which you can visit.
One of the examples, of which only preserved remains are left, is an old bridge that was rebuilt in the 12th century: the old O Burgo Bridge, in the city of Pontevedra itself, crossed daily by pilgrims on the Way of Saint James.
Often frequented by the locals is the one-arched Bridge of Aldán, in the town of Cangas, a marvellous tourist attraction on the O Morrazo Peninsula, which keeps historic treasures near its well-known, highly visited beaches.
Moving on southwards, the stop at Ponte Sampaio offers, both to tourists and to anyone doing the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela, one of those sites worth photographing. Located at the mouth of the River Verdugo, connecting Ponte Sampaio and Arcade, the bridge was crossed by Napoleon's French troops, who were defeated after five months' occupation.
The city of Vigo has two medieval bridges. Located among buildings close to the Balaídos football stadium, the wrongly called "Roman bridge" still stands. It used to be part of a medieval way coming from the south, but after a change in the course of the River Lagares it fell into disuse and deteriorated.,. Having been restored and protected, it is now part of the landscape of the Balaídos neighbourhood.
Going up the hills leading to Sárdoma, in the municipality of Vigo, there is a small two-arched bridge that has been part of the archaeological heritage catalogue since 1998.
If we continue towards Gondomar, more specifically in the parish of Mañufe, we can cross a bridge from the year 1140, also called "Roman bridge", because it is located above an old one from that period.
Very close, and from a later period, is one of those key points in the photographs of any worthwhile visit to Val Miñor (a welcoming region made up by the municipalities of Gondomar, Nigrán and Baiona). The sunset lights reflected on the marshes of A Foz, at the mouth of the River Miñor, beneath the Bridge of A Ramallosa, will remain in your camera and in your memory, as it must have happened to so many pilgrims who were forerunners of the current Portuguese Way along the coast. The way leading thousands of people in their pilgrimage from A Guarda, Oia and Baiona takes them across this bridge connecting Sabarís with Nigrán, which is 36 metres long and supported by ten arches. Dedicated to Saint Elmo, as can be seen by looking at the image of the saint crowning its highest arch, it is the protagonist of one of those legendary stories about fertility rituals: a woman who wishes to become pregnant must wait at midnight for the first man to walk by. He will pour cold water on her stomach and will be the godfather of the future child.
In the parish of Sabarís, belonging to the municipality of Baiona, two bridges have been preserved after six centuries, the old bridge and the bridge of the River Groba or puente del Mercado (Market Bridge), as it is located near the village's market square. They were both part of the old Royal Way connecting Tui with Baiona.
Don't miss the opportunity to feel part of history by stepping on the same stones that pilgrims and locals used to erect bridges that were first crossed centuries ago, as you enjoy the landscapes and the walks along the south coast of Rías Baixas.
Sometimes these bridges are close to new, more modern multi-lane bridges; some other times, immune to the passage of time, they are still the connection between one river bank and the other, providing access to pedestrians, locals and tourists. They are all part of the identity of the place where they were built, and that is what you will feel as you cross them.