Dolceacqua's Ponte Vecchio – Dolceacqua, Italy - Atlas Obscura

Dolceacqua's Ponte Vecchio

Dolceacqua, Italy

Claude Monet immortalized this medieval bridge in two of his paintings. 


In 1884, when Claude Monet visited the small hamlet of Dolceacqua, he was so awed by this medieval bridge, he enthused that the structure was a “jewel of lightness.” Monet came to Dolceacqua at least twice, once with the Impressionist painter Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and immortalized the bridge in his painting “Bridge at Dolceacqua.”

The medieval village of Dolceacqua is located in the Italian hinterlands in the Ligurian region, in the western portion of the Italian Riviera and close to the French border. At the foot of Mount Rebuffao, the medieval part of Dolceacqua known as Terra sits virtually unchanged from its medieval era. On the other side of the Nervia River is Il Borgo, the modern town that sprung up in the 19th century. The bridge connecting these two parts of Dolceacqua is Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge), a bridge that was built in the 15th century and continues to stand today.

Beyond the bridge lie the ruins of the Castle of the Doria, which once marked the border between the Italian regions of Liguria and Piedmont. First built in the 11th century, the castle would go on to be traded between the Doria family, the House of Savoy, and French and Spanish allied troops before being abandoned in the mid-18th century. The ruins are still evident in Monet’s 1844 painting, “The Castle of Dolceacqua.”

Today, visitors to the quiet hamlet of Dolceacqua can still marvel at the medieval bridge and abandoned castle that so captivated Monet. Two panels with reproductions of Monet’s paintings sit by the river, marking the spots where the artist would have placed his canvas. Sit here for a bit and soak in the quiet. Perhaps it will move you to create art, the way it moved Monet two centuries ago.

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