Azzano d'Asti: the village burned by Federico Barbarossa today shines in the firmament of the most fascinating places of the Asti area.
The ancient village of Azzano d’Asti stretches on the summit of low sandy hills south of the river Tanaro not far from Asti.
From the terrace on the side of the church of S. Giacomo, the view extends beyond the vineyards of the hills, the Tanaro valley, the green of poplars, and across the city of Asti, the panorama of the great cloister of the Alps from the Monviso to the Monte Rosa.
From other points of the town you can dominate the Tanaro plain as far as Alexandria and on the horizon you can see the Ligurian Apennines and the High Langhe.
Small is the inhabited area for which there is still plenty of space for vineyards, fields and woods.
The town covers an area of 6.43 km² and has a population of about 380 inhabitants.
It is 7 km from Asti, the provincial capital.
The formation of Azzano territory began millions of years ago, towards the end of the tertiary era when the Po Valley was still occupied by a deep sea.
The movement of the continental plates, which had led to the formation of the Alps, had marginally raised the bottom of the Po river and the outcropping sandy layers began to be washed away by the rains and carved by the streams.
Millennium after millennium, the sandy hills formed on a clay base on which streams and rivers flow. In the sand of Azzano you will find shoals of shells (usually oysters) still closed and well-formed.
Nothing is known of the first inhabitants of the hills of Azzano and nothing prehistoric has been found.
Beyond the river Tanaro, the Ligurian people founded the city of Asti, the city was then occupied by the Gauls and, around 180 A.C., conquered by the Romans.
Flourishing became Asti in the Roman period, and this is widely documented by classical writers and archaeological finds. Wooded and fertile hills of vineyards and cereals, a famous industry of terracotta vessels, a transit point of intense traffic, favored an increase in population and colonization of the surrounding territory.
It is during this period that the stable occupation of the hills of Azzano that arise in front of Asti, in a dominant position the valley of the river Tanaro is presumed.
It is likely that also the name, for its ending, is of Roman origin.
Laura Bosia about the origins of the name of Azzano, wrote in "La Stampa" of 6 June 1987: "Azzanesi, moreover, prove to be fond of their Roman roots if, uncertain about the exact etymology of their town, these two hypotheses advanced in particular: Azzano from "ad Dianam": in honor of the goddess of hunting; or "Attianum": Latin noble name. Less reliable is the Celtic origin, which would refer to an unlikely "backpack" that the Celts, during the conquests, would always have carried on their shoulders".
Given the proximity of Asti, the town has always followed the fate of the city, under whose jurisdiction it has generally always been.
The end of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions cover the hills of Azzano with silence for hundreds of years. In 774 Charlemagne took Asti from the Lombards and established the county of Asti.
From later documents it appears that the counts of Asti established in Azzano a "court of justice" presumably between 800 and 900. In the 900 the Saracens destroyed Asti and burnt the archives.
The weakening of the imperial authority of France and the strengthening of the power of the feudal lords, unleashed their rivalries which caused countless wars and devastation.
People took refuge in the city or in the monasteries and in the "villas" remained serfs, sold and bought with and like cattle.
In March 905 a charter from the archives of Asti, with which the then bishop Audace transferred his rights to the court of Azzano to the canons.
North of Azzano, but in the territory of the Commune, on the right bank of the Tanaro, the Benedictine monks had a convent, whose foundation was attributed to Berengario l (893) but the oldest existing document that mentions it is a diploma of Berengario III and Adalberto, king of Italy of 975 (imperante domino nostro Ottone serenissimo imperatore anno III et VIII mensis Augusti indictione II).
From the year 1000 the documents and papers that mention the villa of Azzano become more frequent, while the Benedictine convent of S. Bartolomeo grows in fame and wealth.
Azzano is mentioned as a village in the district of Asti in the diploma with which the Barbarossa confirmed the government and the dominion of the city (diet of Roncaglia 1158). Oggerio Alfieri, in his chronicle of Asti writes: "Eodem year 1190. Civitas Ast tenebat posse infrascriptum: videlicet ultra lanagrum tenebat Villam Azani...".
In the thirteenth century, bloody struggles between the Guelphs, led by Solaro, and the Ghibellines, headed by the Castles, raged in Asti. To put an end to the unrest, the municipal prosecutors subdued the city to Roberto d'Angiò who forced the contenders to come to terms in a meeting in the monastery of S. Bartolomeo (1332).
In the XIV century Asti was disputed between the Marquises of Monferrato and the Lords of Milan. In the village near Azzano, Rocca d'Arazzo, there was a castle of strategic importance for which "Azzano, like the one that was very close to the Rocca d'Arazzo", endured great concerns, because every time the fortress was besieged, they were the inhabitants of Azzano forced to see their territory trampled on one side or the other, and to be the victim of the military license. I think it was on this occasion that the castle of Azzano was landed, of which there is no longer any vestige, except the hill on which stood, above which and instead of the castle a comfortable house of the parish priest was built"(Gian Secondo De Canis - Corografia Astigiana - cited work).
There are many documents that mention Azzano during this period, in the passage from one Lord to another, until in 1387 Gian Galeazzo Visconti, lord of Milan, ceded it with the county of Asti as a dowry to his daughter Valentina who marries Luigi of Orleans. So it was and in 1387 the towns and villages of the county of Asti swore allegiance to the spouses. In Azzano the oath took place on the morning of August 16, 1387, on the town square.
Two notaries delegated by Gian Galeazzo Visconti and Luigi d'Orleans gathered the 54 heads of family and made them swear, individually, with the hand on the "sanctis evangelis" loyalty and tribute to Valentina and her husband. Among the others were: Germanus Badella, Johannes Beglaminus (Biamino), Johannes Boxia, Martinus de Ghino (Ghi and Ghia), Johannes Scarzella, Manfredus Vialengus (Viarengo).
These surnames are still widespread in the town. From the average composition of the families of that period (3.5) it can be estimated that the population of Azzano in 1400 amounted to about 190 inhabitants. One hundred years remained Asti under the Orleans and from this period a series of legal acts between the friars of S. Bartolomeo and the city of Asti for the rights of the mills on the Tanaro, of the ferries (which were called "bridges") and of the kiddles.
In 1531 Charles V emperor donated the Count of Asti to Beatrice of Portugal, wife of Charles I, Duke of Savoy.
Since then Azzano passes under the dominion of the Savoy. But even so the territory did not have peace. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the wars of succession and civil wars caused an interminable passage of Savoy, Spanish, French, Austrian and Swiss mercenaries. The battles often touched Azzano and the abbey of S. Bartolomeo and with the occupations came requisitions, extortion and harassment.
In 1620 the Duke of Savoy Carlo Emanuele I invested Don Olivero Capra of the fief of Azzano with the title of count, not only for the merits of the family and its estates in Azzano but also to make money.
Don Olivero's father was his personal physician, his uncles were all in the service of the ducal court and Don Olivero was prefect of Asti and knight of the Most Holy Maurizio e Lazzaro.
The investiture gave the right to some tribute of the community of Azzano to the count. On the other hand it is not that the Capra accounts did much for the town.
They lived in Asti in the building that still exists on the corner between Corso Alfieri and Via Mazzini (sold to Valpreda and then to the Ottolino) and there is no trace left in the oral memories of the inhabitants of the city. Among the descendants of Don Olivero there is a mayor of Asti council in 1698, a senator in 1749, an abbot vicar of the bishop in 1745 (then bishop of Acqui) who left lands of Azzano at the hospital of Acqui.
The last Count Capra di Azzano died in 1772 without children. The title of count of Azzano passed to Gaspare Guglielmo Scozia because his great-grandmother was the daughter of Don Olivero. Title was later abolished by the French. Beginning in 1660, the oldest book in the archives of the parish of Azzano, it is a "Liber Baptismi".
At the end of the 18th century, Asti was occupied by the French and then by the Austrian-Russians who devastated the surroundings of Asti to forage horses and soldiers. In the Napoleonic period the territory was annexed to France as a department of the Tanaro.
On the 13th Fruttidoro Year X (31 August 1802) a decree of the French government ordered the suppression of the monastic orders. The abbey of S. Bartolomeo was savagely looted and left in such conditions that it was demolished within a few years. In its place now there are only cultivated fields and the abbey has only the name of the place. With the restoration Azzano is part of the Sardinian kingdom and follows the vicissitudes.
The town paid its contribution of fallen in the two world wars. During the Fascist period, the municipality was suppressed and added to that of Rocca d'Arazzo. During the Resistance, in 1943-1945 Azzano was part of the Partisan Republic of High Monferrato, a free territory, democratically governed, then crushed by the imposing and angry German reaction.
With the advent of the Italian Republic Azzano returned again autonomous municipality.
Food and wine and typical products.
In the valley of Azzano large flat areas are cultivated in poplar wood and the forest occupies again large hilly areas, especially the steepest slopes where the cultivation of the vine is more difficult and less profitable.
Agriculture is still an important economic resource.
Precious DOC wines are produced from the vineyards: Barbera d'Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Grignolino d'Asti.
In the alluvial plain, cereal crops alternate with horticultural crops and sugar beet.
To be seen.
The parish church of Saint Giacomo Apostolo, probably built in the seventeenth and which preserves the relics of St. Bartholomew, stands on the site of the disappeared castle, destroyed by the Spaniards in 1615.
In Azzano there was also an abbey dedicated to Saint Bartolomeo, already existing in 952.
In 1400, it housed 12 to 20 monks and had about 2500 days of land (3 days are about one hectare).
It was severely sacked during the Napoleonic period and abandoned to decay.
The ruins of the abbey became a brick quarry for the people of Azzano and finally disappeared around 1900.
From the abbey, today, all that remains is the name of the locality of San Bartolomeo.
In the village, an undocumented history has been handed down from generation to generation, but probably with a real base: "Federico Barbarossa, after having set fire to Azzano, was about to attack the nearby village of Montemarzo, with his knights about to reach the goal a few steps away, where the church of Saint Marcello is now erected in memory of the event, a furious storm put the turmoil among the horses, who disbanded and fled".