Dwight Peck's personal website

Northwestern Italy in the autumn

A sixteen days' exploration in northern Italy, 18 October - 2 November 2018

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

More Bobbio scenes, and also Brugnello

22 October 2018

Back to Bobbio's best carpark, where the Viale Garibaldi meets the Piazza San Francesco at the northern edge of the medieval old town.

We have the highest hopes of finally getting in today to see the various museums in the Abbazia di San Colombano, or Bobbio Abbey.

Virtually facing onto the Piazza Santa Fara and the back of the monastic buildings is the Romanesque parish church of San Lorenzo, which is attested at least from AD 1144, and in fact until 1950, when the Santa Fara Piazza was created, it lay within the walls of the monastery.

It consists of a simple nave with a barrel vault, with a 15th century wooden choir in the apse and a painting of St Lawrence's martyrdom. A notable 15th century statue of the Madonna was removed to the Abbey Museum. After Napoleon shut down the confraternity that managed the church in 1803 it fell into disuse, but it was subsequently restored and brought back on line.

That's the side of the monastery and the parochial church of St Columbanus in the Piazzetta San Lorenzo.

Approaching the monastery from the Piazza Santa Fara . . .

. . . the museums of which (most notably the Civic Museum and the Abbey Museum) turn out to be open only on Saturdays and Sundays, so we're stuffed. (The elementary school also in the buildings is open, though.)

But we still have the Castello Malaspina-Dal Verme before us. Up on the hill.

The original entrance, with drawbridge mounts still visible though the moat is long gone.

The castle, overlooking the town, was built in 1304 by Corradino Malaspina of the Pregòla branch of the family, who intended it as a military stronghold to oversee the family's interests in their properties along the left side of the river Trebbia.

The Visconti of Milan took control of Bobbio in 1341 and, after Corradino's death in 1347, they were able to acquire the Malaspina properties from his heirs by 1361. In 1436 Filippo Maria Visconti, the Duke of Milan, passed the castle on to his supporters of the Dal Verme family who were by then the Counts of Bobbio and Voghera, who expanded it significantly and turned it into a luxurious residence.

What remains of the castle now is basically the central keep, or at least a significant tower, and extensive gardens or pastures roundabout that must once have been part of the original buildings and walls. We're currently on a rather hasty guided tour of the two or three floors that, we're told, are considered safe for the public.

The castle was apparently purchased by the Della Cella family (according to our guide) in the 17th century, who turned it over to the state in 1956. There is a crowded Della Cella genealogical tree on one of the walls. Wikipedia, however, says that 'In 1800, under the name of Castello Bobbium, the property and marquessate were purchased by the Piccinini family of Emilia-Romagna, who possessed them until 1956 when the castle and land was ceded by the Piccinini to the Italian State'. It's nice that we get a choice.

The walled immediate surroundings, with one watch tower remaining, and . . .

. . . an excellent view over the town of Bobbio.

The Columbanus and San Lorenzo churches can be seen just to the right of the watch tower, and the Duomo's bell and clock towers are in the centre.

The remaining keep or tower viewed from the part of the circumvallating wall by the main gate

That stair leads up from the ticket office near the outside door to the present main entrance to the tower.

The well and main door at present

The village of Brugnello

We're on the Strada Statale 45 (SS45) di Val Trebbia that leads from Piacenza up into the Apennines, over some passes, and eventually down into Genoa on the Mediterranean -- not much traffic for us today, but it's been experiencing more use these days since the collapse of the autostrada bridge in Genoa in August has closed the major roads there.

Not much more than 5km up from Bobbio we pass through Marsaglia and start up for Brugnello.

A single-lane road up to the village, very Swiss-looking

At the entrance to beautiful downtown Brugnello, there's a quaint restaurant called the Rocca Rosa (the 'pink fortress'?). Present-day Brugnello is actually one of many mountain hamlets within the spread-out municipality of Corte Brugnatella, the total population of which is fewer than 600, with its administrative centre in Marsaglia on the river.

The location originally belonged as a fief to the Frankish Brugnatelli family, whose fortified base was hidden up here in Brugnello village, moving progressively over time down to Marsaglia in 1920 and reorganized into the Corte Brugnatella. Early on, all of it was considered part of the properties of the monastery in Bobbio. The Brugnatellis with their castle here were able to charge tolls from merchants passing up and down the road, until in 1164 the Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa granted the Marquis Obizzo Malaspina a 3/4 interest in the Brugnello castle.

Hey, wait up! Azzo Malaspina was forced to sign over the Brugnello Castle to Galeazzo Visconti of Milan in 1361, and in 1436 it all became part of the feudal lands of the Dal Verme counts of Bobbio and Voghera. Following the removal of Brugnello's administrative function in 1920 and in 1929 the parish seat to a new church in Marsaglia, Brugnello itself fell into decline and a much reduced population, from which it has recently been recovering.

It looks like there are only about 20 buildings or so, plus the church, in Brugnello today, depending on how you count, and all of them are very beautiful.

Here at the peak of the village, overlooking the Trebbia, is the 11th century Church of Saints Cosmas and Damian, formerly the parish church which was renovated in the 1990s and offers a splendid view of the river. Some of the ruins of the old castle are still partly visible in front of the privately-owned Palazzo Brugnatelli next door.

A big meander of the river Trebbia below, flowing northward from the right to the left, with the SS45 road on the far side

One of the views from the church

The Trebbia, seen from Brugnello on its daunting perch

The municipal seat in Marsaglia is round the corner off to the right.

Admiring the artistic arrangement of the stones in the path

An elaborate water fountain

The churchyard, and what must be the Palazzo Brugnatelli, though it's not marked

Our party, or most of it

Inside the church of Cosmas and Damian, dedicated to two early Christian martyrs, reputedly twin brothers, both of them Arab physicians who treated patients for no charge and were crucified, stoned, shot through with arrows, and finally beheaded in Syria at the time of Diocletian's 'Great Persecution' in AD 303.

Apparently surprised to find themselves here

Haughty under their enormous crowns

Artistically, a valiant try

The fine building next door to the church

And so we leave beautiful Brugnello . . .

. . . and hold our breaths down the one lane road to the riverside.

A little roadside art

And more roadside art

Marsaglia, now the administrative centre of Corte Brugnatella -- the hamlet and church of Brugnello are directly behind the church spire in the centre of the photo.

A view of the countryside

The church of Brugnello seen across the river from the SS45 road

Back to Bobbio in anticipation of dinner

And the tourist office

This, in our five dinnertimes in Bobbio, turned out to have been easily the best restaurant we found, the Albergo and Ristorante Piacentino.

Teny and Joe, the other half of our party, have set off back home to Switzerland, and we are taking a restful day with our books in the garden of the Torretta B+B.

The garden, with a swimming pool, picnic tables, and what not.

Melvin, who's had to be confined to the bathroom whenever we were out, is being compensated with some time in the great outdoors. As long as he stays on his very unwelcome leash.

Tomorrow we are off for Mondovì in the province of Cuneo.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 25 November 2018.

Bobbio and
October 2018