Chapter #1

Do you want to pretend to be American?

Do you want to pretend to be American while in Italy? Then California is the best place. The village of Bibbona is thus called in homage to the American state on the West Coast. Bibbona was originally composed of fields and peasants. It became "American" in the mid-nineteenth century when a French man of Corsican origin, Leonetto Cipriani, but politically friendly with many in Livorno, decided to baptise his estate in honour of his second home in the States.

Cipriani had an adventurous life. He made a fortune in his business and had a decent political career, becoming a fervent supporter of Napoleon, then a partisan in the expedition of the Thousand, as well as ambassador of the Kingdom of Sardinia in Belmont, a suburb of San Francisco. In all this he managed to cultivate strong ties with the Livornese where he invested in land and property. When he was in Italy, naturally he always spoke of the American continent, captivating all with his stories from the New World. Because of this, the entire area adopted the name of his farm in Bibbona which he had called California. Even today, when the US presidential elections are underway, the inhabitants joke about their own elections and send the results to the Florence consulate. The ‘fake’ voting operations were even taken up by an American TV station intrigued by the curious twinning.

Chapter #2

Traces of the mysterious Templars in Bibbona

The Etruscan origins of the city are well known. What fascinates scholars, however, is the presence of the Templars. Bibbona attracts many of the most fervent enthusiasts seeking traces of the religious and chivalrous order. Recent studies have confirmed the presence of the Knights in the medieval village of Bibbona, but the puzzles remain. The Templars would have settled on the Etruscan site, leaving their unmistakable signs on walls and stones. In what remains of the original structure of the historic Pieve di Sant’Ilario, there is a graffiti cross that has attracted the attention of scholars because similar graffiti has been found in the prisons that housed templars waiting to be sentenced. It is thought that a contingent of French origin knight-monks operated in the parish of Bibbona. In addition, there is another Templar cross on the right side of the outer wall. Other traces are visible inside on the octagonal font: a lion and a cross. 

Photo by: Giaccai