Let’s go together to discover the city of Bobbio in the Trebbia Valley.
This territory was filled with settlements since the Neolithic, means between the 6th and 3rd millennium BC. Subsequently, first the Ligurians and then the Celtics settled down in this valley. The Romans arrived after 14 BC, they defeated the territory and created the first settlement of a village on the shore of the creek.
The history of Bobbio is linked to the Abbey founded in 614 by the Irish monk Colombano: in 612 the Longobard King Agilulfo gave Colombano a part of the land surrounding the church of Saint Peter – where is located the castle of the Malaspina today – and here he built the first nucleus of the monastery. This donation had also a political and economic value, because Bobbio was controlling the Way of the Salt, connecting Piacenza with Genoa, and half of the productions of the saltpan was given in custody to the Monastery. After the death of the Irish monk in 615, the Abbey was enlarged and consequently the religious and cultural influence increased; among the many activities of the monks, there were the reading and the studying: the library (or scriptorium) became a prestigious reference point for many other monasteries in Italy and all over Europe.
In 774, Charlemagne put an end to the Longobard Kingdom. The French began passing by Bobbio to get to Liguria and to the middle of Italy, so the Abbey received more benefit from the new king and soon turned into a rich Feud; by this time, its possessions were spread all around the North of Italy.
The construction of the actual Saint Colombano Abbey began around the end of the 9th century when the abbot Agilulfo decided to transfer the entire monastic complex. In 1014 Bobbio became the episcopal headquarters and obtained the title of City: in a first time the charges of bishop and abbot were covered by same person, but then they were given to two different ones and so were the goods. This division, with time, brought inner fights between the abbot and the bishop; in addition, Bobbio began losing the Papal and Imperial support and being threatened by a new subject: the Municipalities. All of this soon brought to the decline of the city and Piacenza occupied it in 1230. In 1340, more than a century later, the Visconti Family conquered the land; in 1387, the city passed to the ownership of the Dal Verme Counts, who kept it until the middle of the 1700s: since then Bobbio became part of the Savoia Kingdom. With the arrival of Napoleon and the suppression of the monasteries, all the goods of Saint Colombano Abbey were sold in auction. The Bobbio codes scattered in various libraries – the Ambrosiana one in Milan, the Vatican one in Rome, the University one in Turin and more. The city turned into a French arrondissement and in 1801, it was annexed to France. At the fall of the Napoleonic empire and after my sovereign, Bobbio went back to be part of the Savoia’s Kingdom, until the creation of the Kingdom of Italy: at that point, it was transferred to the province of Pavia and later, in 1923, to the Piacenza one. Among the noteworthy monuments and the historical-artistic buildings, there is the Malaspina Castle, the Cathedral and the Ponte Vecchio – Old Bridge – also called Ponte Gobbo – Hunched Bridge – because of his eleven irregular spans.
It is possible to visit the Museum of the Abbey that displays historical evidences from the Roman Age to the 16th century and the Museum of the City that provides a didactic journey recreating the cultural-historical contest of Bobbio. Both are located inside the abbey complex.
I will take bit more of your time to talk about a small village on the Appennino of Piacenza located in the territory of Mezzano Scotti, a district of the municipality of Bobbio. This village is Embresi. Walking through the buildings of rough stone and characterized by covers made of slate’s sheet, you can notice the status of abandon and isolation of the village.
Nevertheless, there are still traces of the history of this place. The tower, rising over the other constructions, is more than 20 meters tall and it was probably used to control the area. The sure thing is that in between the 7th and the 8th century the Longobard kings made a specific territorial and economic plan of this place, also taking advantage of the activity of the monasteries of Saint Colombano in Bobbio and Saint Paolo in Mezzano Scotti, in order to improve the road system to Rome.
The nature is slowly taking over the village that still be an incredible testimony of the history of this land.
Valentina Cinieri, Embresi, un borgo da valorizzare, Edizioni Pontegobbo