A journey of faith in the footsteps of the Irish founder of the Abbey of Bobbio: Saint Colombanus.
The trip starts from the town church of Saint Brigid in Piacenza, passes through the medieval village of Bobbio and continues in the Apennines of Piacenza, where in addition to the monastery now used as a museum, there are also other places related to the life and death of Colombanus.
In Piazza Borgo, which in Roman times was the western entrance to the city of Piacenza, there is a church dedicated to St. Brigid of Kildare, the Irish nun who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries, whose cult in Ireland is second only to St. Patrick.
Next to the church, founded in the 9th century, stood a xenodochium for pilgrims called "per nationes", where people spoke Irish, in order to help those who passed through the city to reach the abbey of Bobbio, founded by the Irish St. Colombanus in the 7th century. The wayfarers coming from the Saint's land of origin found in this place also a linguistic comfort while moving through a foreign land.
At 45 minutes by car from Piacenza, driving along the SS45, you will find Bobbio. Since the 7th century, this small town in the Trebbia Valley has been an important center and a place of passage for pilgrims on their way to Rome.
This was the territory that the Lombard king Agilulfo and his consort Teodolinda in 613 donated to the Irishman Colombanus in exchange for help in establishing relations with the Christian world.
Colombanus, who had almost reached the end of his life, established a monastery here, from which his successors developed the monastic center that can still be admired.
Not to be missed is the crypt with the floor mosaic of the 12th century which narrates the struggle between good and evil and where the cycle of the months is represented.
To be seen is also the area with the sepulchre of San Colombano and the plutei of the tombs of his successors, Attala and Bertulfo.
The profile of Ponte Gobbo di Bobbio is said to be present in Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, but its fame is mainly linked to the legend that surrounds its construction.
It is said that Saint Colombanus wanted to reach the opposite bank of the river Trebbia to bring the Christian word to everyone. However, the force of the waters made a resistant construction impossible. The devil proposed to the saint to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the “first one” who crossed it.
After much thought, Colombanus accepted and, at night, the bridge was built: each span was different in height and width, as were the devils who had erected it.
At the moment of crossing the bridge, Colombanus tricked the devil and sent his faithful little dog (in some versions of the legend there is instead a bear) which, belonging to the animal world, was believed to have no soul.
At about 5 km from Bobbio there is the small village of Coli (reachable on foot along the path that runs along the Abbots Way or by car), from which it is possible to reach the Spelonca where, according to the tradition, San Colombanus died.
From the square of Coli head towards the sports center following the CAI 141 trail sign (red and white); the path becomes a cart track and, with narrow bends, it goes down to cross the Rio Curiasca on a small bridge that flows into the Trebbia river in San Salvatore, a couple of kilometers below. Then go up the wooded slope of Rio Curiasca, called of San Michele, on a nice mule-track partly paved. Here a sign indicates the deviation to the Caves of San Michele, which, according to legend, saw the death of Colombanus in 615.
Back from immersion in nature it is time for a good meal.
In the Easter period a slice of Colomba in honor of the saint cannot be missed. One of the many legends related to Colombanus tells that, invited to a banquet on Good Friday (fasting day), the saint transformed a spit of birds into a dove-shaped cake.
To conclude the itinerary dedicated to Saint Colombanus it's time to move towards Mount Penice, where it is believed that the monk used to go during his parentheses of solitude from the community and rigid abstention from the world.
From Bobbio there's a panoramic winding road that leads to high altitude.
At the top of the mountain, between earth and sky, there is a place that still attracts the cult of the faithful: the Sanctuary at the top of Mount Penice, founded in the early Middle Ages.
It seems that the building was built on a Celtic-Ligurian pagan temple. This is testified by a bronze statue representing a pagan priest, dating back to the 1st-2nd century, today preserved in Genoa, in the Montegalletto Castle.