The "PONTE GOBBO"
An irregular-shaped bridge crosses the Trebbia river near Bobbio, connecting the beautiful town with the valley that rises towards Coli, along the Apennine ridge. It is the Ponte Gobbo, also known as Ponte Vecchio or Ponte del Diavolo .
273 meters long, the bridge - which has become one of the symbols of the city - stands out for having been built with 11 unequal arches and, moreover, placed at different heights. The charm of its architecture has crossed the centuries intact up to us, and is an unmissable destination for those who pass or stay in this corner of Italy, thanks also to the history and legend that surround it.
Its position, in the heart of the Alta Val Trebbia - which the writer Ernest Hemingway described as "the most beautiful valley in the world" - makes it, naturally together with the village, a place of unmissable beauty. Bobbio, in fact, is included in the circuit of the most beautiful villages in Italy , and has obtained the Orange Flag of the Italian Touring Club. The Ponte Gobbo, however, is positioned in fifth place in the special ranking of the thirty most beautiful bridges in Italy.
The original construction of the bridge certainly dates back to Roman times, and probably to the period in which the armies of Rome besieged and conquered what at the time was a village inhabited by a Celtic-Ligurian population.
Subsequently, however, its appearance gradually changed due to the various renovations to which it was subjected. So much so that, under the current one, an older structure was also found, dating back to the Middle Ages, then covered by that built by the monks of San Colombano.
In addition, the bridge is mentioned in a document dating back to 1196, now kept in the historical archives of Bobbio, in which a maintenance work from the construction was recorded. For a long time, the bridge was the object of attention and care also for its great strategic importance, as a safe connection between the two sides of the Trebbia and between the different activities that took place along the river. Here, in fact, stood the thermal salt pans and the Roman and later Lombard spas, the Rio Gambado furnace and, of course, the road that connected the region with the Lunigiana and then with Genoa.
In the 16th century the bridge still consisted of a large arch towards the right bank and smaller arches by you. The irregular course of the Trebbia, and the frequent and devastating floods, made numerous reconstruction and strengthening works necessary, which transformed the bridge into an increasingly articulated and resistant structure. It was thus extended towards the left bank, thanks to the project by Magnano da Parma, in the seventeenth century, reaching the present 11 arches. It was also a destination for pilgrims and religious processions, and its banks long hosted crosses and votive images. As for the name "Ponte del Diavolo", we know that this name is due to a poem by Valente Faustini, Al Diavul al fa at Pont Gobb ad Bobbi, in turn linked to an ancient legend.
The legend of San Colombano
According to legend, San Colombano, bound for Bobbio, was forced to stop before entering the village due to a flood that made it impossible to wade the Trebbia. While he was undecided about what to do, however, the Devil presented himself to him, who promised to build a bridge overnight, so that he could easily reach the village on the opposite bank of the river.
The evil lord, however, asked for something in return: possession of the soul of whoever would be the first to cross the bridge the following day. San Colombano willingly accepted the exchange proposed by the devil who, for his part, built the promised bridge as planned - in just one night. The construction, however, turned out to be completely irregular, due to the different stature of the 11 demons who had helped him support the arches during the construction work. In the morning, therefore, the Devil waited for the first passerby to claim his soul. The astute San Colombano, however, was the first to send a little dog across the bridge (in another version of the legend we speak of a bear), and the angry devil for having been deceived hit the bridge with a kick, which from that day he remained ... wrong.
Beyond the legend, the Irish monk Colombano, who later became a saint, arrived in Bobbio in 614 together with his faithful disciple Attala, with the aim of bringing and spreading Christianity in Europe. And then he became patron of Bobbio, who celebrates him on November 23rd. In Bobbio the monk founded the monastery which became one of the most important landmarks of Christianity for its library, which still retains some of the most ancient and precious Latin manuscripts. The legend also inspired the inhabitants of neighboring countries, who could make fun of the Bobbies, who had only managed to build a "hunchback" bridge.
The Hunchback Bridge and Mona Lisa
The researcher Carla Glori studied the bridge, also making use of a study with 3D models, coming to the conclusion that it is the bridge depicted in the universally famous Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci .
The scholar also came to the conclusion that Leonardo painted the famous canvas portraying Bianca Sforza placed from behind with respect to a window located in the upper floor of the Malaspina-Dal Verme Castle, which is located inside the village . Among other things, the research has allowed her author to identify ten points of reference - including the Ponte Gobbo in what should have been her appearance during the Renaissance - in the real landscape of Bobbio, which would perfectly match those of the landscape painted in the framework of the great genius of Vinci.
To identify the precise location of Leonardo's point of view, a reconstruction of the castle structure was used at the time the picture was made. All this also taking into account the "compression of the landscape", an effect calculated using the criteria specified by Leonardo himself in his Treatise on Painting.
Finally, the researcher also identified another element that would confirm the connection between the Bobbian landscape and that which appears in the Mona Lisa, behind the woman with the mysterious and proverbial smile. It is the same river Trebbia, portrayed where it forms a large loop, the widening of which is visible to the right of the model. On the bottom, then, the mountains appear, identified as the reliefs of the Val Tidone, the Parcellara and the badlands area .
Furthermore, a numerical reference in the picture would lead back to Bobbio. This is number 72, traced by the author under the arch of the bridge: it would remember 1472, the year in which a devastating flood of the Trebbia river occurred which destroyed the bridge. Without speaking of another reference, that of the portrayed woman, who according to Carla Glori would be Bianca Giovanna Sforza , daughter of Ludovico il Moro, who married Gian Galeazzo Sanseverino, who was commander of the Sforza army in Milan and lord of Bobbio.
A year-round destination
The municipal administration of Bobbio, in recent years, has taken steps to further consolidate the Ponte Gobbo, also strengthening the architectural defenses useful to limit the erosive action of the river and, above all, its floods. The bridge is passable on foot or by bicycle, also because it has a rather narrow roadway, and allows you to reach the historic center of Bobbio.
The site can be visited in any season of the year. During winter the snow makes the bridge even more suggestive, giving it a magical and full of charm atmosphere, while in spring and also the nature that flourishes makes the landscape of an incomparable beauty. In summer, then, you can swim in the fresh and crystal clear waters of the Trebbia, and sunbathe comfortably along the river beaches, very popular and popular with swimmers. Furthermore, from the bridge you can enjoy a suggestive view of the city , on which stand the bell towers and the tallest monuments.
All this makes the bridge and this corner of the village a magical place, where history, legend, art and architectural and landscape beauty intertwine in an indissoluble union.
How to reach Ponte Gobbo
Bobbio and Ponte Gobbo can be reached by taking the A1 from Bologna to the Piacenza Sud exit, and then following the SS45 Val Trebbia. From Genoa along the SS45 Val Trebbia, and from Milan the A1 to the Piacenza Sud exit.
For those traveling by train , on the other hand, the railway station of reference is Piacenza, from which you can then take the direct bus to Bobbio.
For trekking and walking enthusiasts it should be remembered that Bobbio represents a stop on the so-called Via degli Abati, also known as Via Francigena di Montagna, which starts from Pontremoli and reaches the most famous Via Francigena.