When a town is crowned the most beautiful in Italy. as Bobbio was in 2019, expectations are high. A friend had also said she loved it, having spent some months here. But I suspect that was prior to the accolade and the tourism boom.
Most images of Bobbio show the famous Devil’s Bridge or Hunchbacked Bridge, the Ponte Vecchio, which dips and rises across the Trebbia River. It is said that the bridge was built overnight by the Devil, after a deal with Bobbio’s founder in 615, the Irish monk San Colomban.
The first bridge was likely built by the Romans in the 1st century BC (!) as Bobbio was an important part of the Salt Way. Several floods have caused rebuilding and I could see buffers on each side of the river bank plus a large platform around the supports of the main flow.
Bobbio is indeed beautifully situated, with the hills close by, and its narrow streets wind up to the protective Castello and down to the river with many fascinating twists.
St Colomban certainly thought it was a great spot, as he founded his monastery here. It shows how interconnected the world was then.
The monastery and the many churches externally have the lovely simple lines of medieval architecture.
From the castle’s upper windows the views of the town and valley show why it is claimed that Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’ used many details from here in the background of the painting.
Even the castle’s adjacent tower is in there, in the bottom left corner, but for me the attraction of that was its self-supporting roof. I tried not to think about the room below, where criminals were thrown to die, impaled on the waiting knives.
Much of Bobbio has been restored, its pale bricks and stone walls repointed; much more is scaffolded now and in the process of restoration.
It had the feeling of a Tidy Town, and I wondered if the council paid people to neaten and beautify, as most seemed to have done. And of course it was teeming with tourists, in the summer holiday season. But as the next post will show, there was much to marvel at in Bobbio…