"CONTRADA DEL CASTELLARO"
A journey back in the Middle Ages
The ancient city of Bobbio retains all the charm and beauty of its past. A past witnessed by its medieval historic center , one of the best preserved, which deserves to be explored and discovered to appreciate it to the full. So much so that it is included in the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy, winning the Orange Flag of the Italian Touring Club.
The Contrada del Castellaro , with its ancient arcades , is one of the most suggestive corners of the city center, which attracts anyone who walks the streets and alleys of the medieval village like a magnet. A center which was given, thanks to a bubble issued by Emperor Frederick II, the status of the city as early as 1014. Its immense religious, cultural, architectural and artistic heritage earned it.
The Contrada of Castellaro
Going beyond the arches of the famous Ponte Gobbo also called del Diavolo, you enter the Borgo di Bobbio. In front of it opens the fabric of the medieval village, called in antiquity as an "extrinsic village", made of a myriad of streets, overlooked by important historical buildings, which tell the long and glorious history of Bobbio.
Along the way you meet the Monastery of San Colombano , dating back to 614, with the Abbey Museum , and then enter the heart of the medieval village, ideal for a quiet walk, but also for a pleasant journey into the past, given the high concentration of historic and artistic buildings. Among these, the mansions of numerous aristocratic families, such as the Castelli and Calvi, who decorated the facades of their residences leaving an indelible memory of their existence.
The long Contrada del Castellaro closes the central part of the Borgo, and joins the Contrada di Porta Nuova in the east, whose southern part probably continued originally with a straight path, ending in the Contrada dell'Ospedale . Contrada del Castellaro rises exactly in the heart of the medieval village of Bobbio, in an area between the Mapalspina Dal Verme Castle and the Abbey of San Colombano .
In the area there is also the Church of San Lorenzo, a building dependent on the Parish of San Colombano, whose facade opens on the side of Piazza Santa Fara, behind the monastery of San Colombano.
The Ancient Arcades
Characteristic of this part of the Borgo are the irregular arches and the low buildings, which were built in dark stone, terracotta and pebbles on a lower level than that of the street.
In these buildings, the first shops were located on the first floor, on which the craftsmen worked and worked. On the first floor, usually distinguished by columns to facilitate its protrusion on the road, there were the houses . On the second floor, on the other hand, pantries were usually placed, which could take advantage of the fumes from the fireplaces that went up to smoke cheeses and cured meats. In the rear, then, the vegetable gardens opened, which were cultivated for the sustenance of the family.
The diffusion of stone buildings spread in a particular way starting from the 11th and 12th centuries, after the early medieval period in which the buildings were essentially made of wood, while those in stone were usually an exclusive of sacred building . In the Borgo di Bobbio, in general, the building activity saw the involvement of a large part of the population, including peasants and craftsmen engaged in the creation of ornamental facades in a noble setting.
But the medieval Bobbio certainly does not end here. The whole village offers countless ideas for lovers of the Middle Ages, in a real invitation to explore on foot and discover.
Here, then, is another excellent opportunity to continue the journey through time, moving a few hundred meters from the Contrada Castellaro, to discover the intact charm of Palazzo Alcarini , also known as Casa di Teodolinda, which gave its name to the Contrada namesake.
The building dating back to the fifteenth century stands out with its facade made of exposed brick and for the entrances with pointed arches. The portico with Gothic arches, supported by cylindrical pillars with sandstone capitals, is older than the upper part of the building and was remodeled in later periods. Under the portico, moreover, a very well preserved shop is visible, which presents a very rare example of a medieval showcase.
The palace that belonged to the Alcarini family is also known as " Casa di Teodolinda ". This denomination derives from a popular tradition, which however does not find historical confirmation, which tells of a stay in the building of the Lombard queen. The building, among other things, was said to have been built in a period following the life of Teodolinda and her passage and stay in the city of Bobbio.
The gastronomic tradition
The shops in the historic center of Bobbio are an opportunity to discover the typical products of the area : from cold cuts to desserts, from local wines to fruit jams, from porcini mushrooms and truffles from the surrounding mountains to honey.
Do not miss, then, the taverns that continue to offer the flavors of the local culinary tradition: macaroni alla bobbiese, which are prepared using a knitting needle, stewed snails, almond brittle, pine nuts with ricotta, zampone of seasoned pork shoulder and pretzels.
Among the other Bobbies specialties, which are part of the vast gastronomic tradition of Piacenza, there are also "malfatti", gnocchi with ricotta and chard cooked in the oven. The lamb alla bobbiese, however, is cooked in broth with salt, parsley and garlic.
In addition to trattorias and taverns, the village also features numerous carpenters and craftsmen's workshops with their production of artefacts and souvenirs.
A jump into the past with Fantastico Medioevo
Every year in Bobbio "Fantastico Medioevo" is held, an annual event that constitutes a real medieval festival. Organized by the Association of Merchants and Economic Operators, the event includes the organization of ancient games, costume performances, food, craft workshops and markets.
The event attracts thousands of visitors, attracted by the opportunity to relive the life and atmosphere of the ancient medieval village, following knights and parades, historical reconstructions of arts and crafts and daily life. But also discovering and reliving the atmosphere of a medieval camp or market, or watching the show of flag wavers, jugglers and falconers.
All set in the most important places of the medieval city , such as Piazza Duomo and Piazza Santa Fara.
From the Middle Ages to the Cinema
From the Middle Ages until today, the urban landscape of Bobbio constitutes an unavoidable invitation to walk and discover this ancient village. The rich stratification of historical events, architectural testimonies and, above all, the luck of having remained more or less intact in spite of the passage of time, has allowed him to fully enter the list of over 200 "most beautiful villages in Italy ".
His settings, among other things, have proved invaluable for hosting the filming of some films. An aspect particularly known by Marco Bellocchio , the well-known film director, who is one of his best-known citizens, and who shot part of his "I pugni in pocket" right in the ancient center of Piacenza, but also his most recent "Sangue del my blood".
Marco Bellocchio is also the creator of the Bobbio Film Festival , a cinematographic event born in 199 which is held annually in the historic village. The initiative started out as a film workshop, "Farecinema - meeting with the authors", held precisely by Bellocchio, with related directing courses and a film festival open to the public. Projections usually followed a meeting with directors, actors and authors.
Over time Bobbio Film Festival has grown, becoming in 2005 a real Festival, organized by the "Fare Cinema" Foundation together with the Municipality of Bobbio. The venue for the event was identified in the Cloister of the Abbey of San Colombano.
And it is precisely from the Basilica of San Colombano that the freshest "news" about the Middle Ages arrived in Bobbio. In the central nave, in fact, the first archaeological excavations were conducted, and an international team of archaeologists investigated for the first time the oldest part of the monastic complex.
Excavations have brought to light the facade and the entrance of a cult building dating back to the Middle Ages, which was built before the current church. A very important result, which allows us to re-elaborate the data up to now in our possession, and thus allowing the possibility of reconstructing the ancient aspect of the abbey church.
The works were conducted under the scientific direction of the Superintendency for Archaeological Heritage of Emilia Romagna and by the University of Eastern Piedmont.