The Malaspina CASTLE
The fortress of Bobbio and the legend of the "knife well"
In the upper part of Bobbio stands the Malaspina Dal Verme Castle . The building belongs to the State, with the direct management of the Superintendence for Architectural and Landscape Heritage for the Provinces of Parma and Piacenza.
The origins of the Castle come from far away. In an Act of 1219 a "braida de castello" is mentioned in Bobbio. Another reference to the Castle prior to 1304 appears in an eighteenth-century Inventory of the Monastery of San Colombano , preserved in the Malaspina Archive , which attests to the presence of a castle and towers in Bobbio before 1300. It is therefore probable that at that time it existed already a castle, in addition to the walls of the Borgo. According to scholars, therefore, it can be thought that, in a phase preceding the birth of the Malaspina Castle, a fortification already existed, which was then remodeled and transformed into the new structure.
The construction of the current Malaspina Castle began in 1304, at the behest of Corradino Malsapina , lord of the city, probably in concert with Visconte Pallavicino. Initially the size of the fort was less than that which it assumed over the following centuries, and increased thanks to progressive enlargements. The choice of the site allowed to give it an elevated position compared to the Borgo, with a wide view on the road that runs alongside the Trebbia.
In 1360 the Malaspina dal Verme Castle was donated by Galeazzo Visconti to Isabella of France, her daughter-in-law, who married her son Gian Galeazzo. In 1436, the castle passed to Count Luigi Dal Verme. In 1440 there are the structural interventions brought by Pietro Dal Verme, who was assassinated on the day of his wedding, in 1485. The building was restructured by Gian Maria Dal Verme in 1545, who transformed the manor into a elegant noble residence.
Subsequently, further works and transformations took place in the first half of the XVIII century. In 1759, with the death of Carlo Dal Verme , the Bobbian branch of the family died out, and the building passed to the Piacenza branch of the Dal Verme. A period of decline followed, until the occupation by French troops in 1799, after the Battle of the Trebbia. However, the French were expelled soon.
At the beginning of the 19th century the castle was still equipped with drawbridges, which opened on two fronts on the moat, which was subsequently filled. In 1805 the fort and the annexed land were sold to the Piacenza lawyer Paolo Della Cella. Subsequently, Irene, grandson of the lawyer, brought the castle to Eugenio Piccinini as a dowry, and his son, Riccardo Piccinini, was the last owner of the building before the passage to the Italian State.
Architectural and artistic characteristics
The Malaspina Dal Verme Castle looks like a fortification made up of several buildings closed only by the internal walls, with the Torrione di Porta Nuova , after the external one was demolished. This demolition dates back to 1858, but from the eighteenth-century plants it is evident that the manor was connected to an external wall, with fortified doors, and that originally it was equipped with two towers: the "Torrino" and the "Torre di Primatello". The restoration and consolidation of the structure dates back to 1973, with the remaking of the floors and roofing, among other things. All its parts are made of stone and brick inserts and are equipped with small windows and tiled roofs.
In the complex, which can be accessed from two entrances, we can distinguish the Mastio , with a quadrangular plan, which develops on two floors, a circular tower, the remains of the so-called Torre del Vescovo, and a circular tower, with two rooms, one covered by the conical roof, the other hypogeum. The Bishop's Tower represents the oldest part of the complex, which was built after 1014 as the original bell tower of the nearby Basilica of San Pietro , and then transformed into a defensive structure. Before the birth of the castle it was also used as accommodation for troops.
The access is protected by a fortified door, located in the center of the walls, while the Mastio is consolidated by a robust sloping rampart, and is surrounded by the internal wall, which is built on an embankment that holds the castle in an elevated position. The rooms are spread over four floors, each of which has large lounges.
Entering the atrium, with inlaid wooden floor, you enter the "Sala delle Marine", and then to a hall in which stands a stone fireplace surmounted by the heraldic symbols of the Dal Verme family, and seventeenth-century paintings are visible. Below, the "Sala del Tavolo ottagono" , the "Salotto Liberty" and the bedroom with its Empire-style furnishings.
Along the staircase leading to the upper floor there is a detached fresco, dating back to the 16th century, of a Madonna and Child. In one of the rooms on the second floor there is a genealogy painted on an oval canvas of the Della Cella family, to which the castle belonged in the 19th century. The rooms on the second floor are intercommunicating, and include a bedroom, lounge, a small study and a room with a fireplace, with inlaid wood flooring.
Along the staircase leading to the third floor there is a fresco of an episcopal coat of arms bearing the Cross of Lorraine, and then you enter a large room with a barrel vault. The ramp that goes up to the fourth floor, however, preserves the remains of frescoes and another episcopal coat of arms. Finally, the fifth floor appears to be supported by four pillars.
There are traces of two entrances equipped with a drawbridge, however more recent since in ancient times only the north-west entrance gave access to the keep. The keep has five floors with rooms with a barrel ceiling and inlaid wooden floors: the first three were for residential use, the fourth for housing troops and the last for defensive maneuvers. This consists in fact in an attic supported by four pillars now illuminated by 18 recently opened windows, while originally there were only splayed slits.
The "Legend of the well of the Knives"
Like any self-respecting castle or manor, the Malaspina castle in Bobbio also boasts a legend to tell, called the "Well of the Knives". The well we are talking about, once placed in the basement of the circular tower of the Castle and now filled and closed, is in fact linked to the narration of gloomy and disturbing stories that have been handed down for centuries.
At the center of the legend there is a well, communicating with a dead secret, which would have been covered with sharp protruding blades , inserted horizontally into its walls. According to ancient accounts, the enemies and opponents of the Lord of the castle ended up thrown here, and apparently also young women kidnapped.
It is said that those who fell into it often preferred to immediately end up on the blades, in order to avoid a horrible and interminable agony. Furthermore, other stories still tell of ghosts, perhaps of condemned men, who would roam above the castle walls.
Visit to the Castle
Malaspina Dal Verme Castle can be visited all year round, and is part of the circuit of the Association "Castles of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza" , a network of 23 fortresses, fortresses and manors. The guided tour proposes a route that touches the "Sala delle Marine", the "Salone delle Feste", the seventeenth-century paintings, the "Sala del Tavolo Ottagono", the "Salotto Liberty" and the bedroom.
Not far from the Malaspina Castle, it is possible to discover another testimony of the ancient history of Bobbio. Where once the ancient Bedo canal flowed, which once activated five other city mills, the San Giuseppe Mill still stands today, dating back to the XII century.
The mill keeps intact its long history, with the three millstones and all the equipment used in ancient times. On the outside stands the large wheel, embedded between the road and the structure of the mill itself. After the ancient mill of the Castle, which later became the Mill of the Municipality and active until the 1970s, that of San Giuseppe is the second starting from the upper part of the Borgo, and one of the two that still retain their wheel, as well as the millstones and the original rooms.
In memory of a time when these buildings were particularly widespread and active in the urban center, a road remains, the Via dei Mulini, which testifies to the importance of this activity over the centuries.
In addition, in the area of " Porta Legeria " there were several mills, which from the mid- fourteenth century were under municipal jurisdiction. And precisely in Contrada San Giuseppe there was the one called "de Baracho", whose medieval documentation describes reconstructing the plant, with the wheels and the grinding wheel for grinding cereals, and also of the other buildings that were probably intended for storage and to the conservation of wheat and other cereals.
ATTENTION: the Castle is temporarily closed
"Sala delle Marine", Party room with large fireplace and seventeenth-century paintings on the walls; Room of the Ottagono table, Liberty lounge, bedroom with Empire furnishings.
Winter opening hours from 01 October to 30 April:
Monday - Wednesday - Thursday - Friday: 10.00-12.00 and 14.30-16.30
Saturday Sunday and holidays: 10.00am-1.00pm and 2.00pm - 5.00pm
TIMETABLES MAY CHANGE,
CHECK ON THE WEB SITE http://polomusealeemiliaromagna.beniculturali.it
Full: € 2.50
(visits with groups of up to 15 people)
Reduced: € 1.50
Free up to 18 years. Professors and students of the Faculty of Architecture and Cultural Heritage Conservation; students of the Academy of Fine Arts; journalists with press card. For further information, check the Polo Museale website.
Visits accompanied by staff on duty.
DOGS ARE NOT ALLOWED INSIDE THE MALASPINA CASTLE OF BOBBIO