Castell'Alfero

Getting married in a castle: in Castell'Alfero, birthplace of the Italian tricolor, the dream becomes reality.


Landscape.

Castell'Alfero rises in the Low Monferrato, on a hill on the right side of the Valle Versa, crossed by the river of the same name.

The town covers an area of ​​20.09 km² and has a population of about 2700 inhabitants.

It is about 12 km from the provincial capital, Asti.

The concentric is gathered in a compact group of houses around the highest part of the hill where the castle stands, and the village continues to the south with numerous groups of houses on the ridge of the hill in the Serra Perno region, while, to the south-west, in the valley bottom there is the hamlet of Callianetto; the Stazione hamlet, seat of the railway station, has expanded considerably over the last hundred years in the Valle Versa plan.

The highest point of the concentric is surrounded by a high walled enclosure which is accessed by two ancient doors; here stood the ancient castle that was destroyed in an unspecified period, replaced by the present one, which is rather a large palace, whose construction is owed to the Amico family; the high and robust walls are the testimony of the large fortification that protected the central nucleus of the town.

Castell’Alfero participates in the Palio di Asti, the historic horse-mounted riding race protagonist of the Settembre Astigiano.


History.

The history of Castell'Alfero is not linked exclusively to that of its manor, but it began centuries earlier.

The area in the Valle Versa was crossed by the ancient Roman road that connected Hasta (Asti) to Rigomagus (Trino Vercellese) and certainly already inhabited at that time, confirmed by the discovery of archaeological finds near the border with the municipality of Tonco, near at the Cascina Sangona.

Roman road was called “via levata” and is thought to follow the torrent Versa up close to the current Ponte della Paglia and then follow the Viazza stream (whose name is of Roman origin), passing under the current Perrona and heading towards Penango, as does the route of the Asti-Casale railway line nowadays.

Of sure Roman origin is the name of Pogliano locality, which has remained from the name of a building built on the sides of the important road that connected the Po Valley and Vercelli to the great streets “Aemilia Scauri” and “Postumia” coming from the Ligurian sea.

The Versa stream served as a border between the territories of the free Municipality of Asti and the Marquisate of Monferrato.

In 1159 the emperor Barbarossa confirmed under the jurisdiction of Asti the villas of Barche and Cassano, now disappeared but identifiable with two farms in the territory of Castell'Alfero that have retained their name.

The two positions, which already existed in the eleventh century, given their position exposed to raids by the Monferrini, were equipped with fortifications as shown in documents of the '300.

On a hill near the two above-mentioned "villas" there was already a stronghold, indicated in several documents as "castrum Alferii", that is the castle of Alferio; the building was of ancient origin, but the precise age in which it was built is not ascertained; it passed under the dominion of Asti between 1159 and 1189, probably it was conquered with the weapons and the inhabitants forcibly transferred downstream.

The Astese Code with several documents (from 747 to 753) shows that Castell'Alfero was under the power of Asti in 1189.

It is proved not only by the documents mentioned but also by an act of 1191 showing an agreement between the inhabitants of Asti and the Marquis of Monferrato concluded on 25 August of that year in the territory of Castell'Alfero near the torrent Versa.

It could be assumed that the name of "Castrum Alferii" mentioned in the Astese Code, related to the inhabited base of the valley, also fortified as evidenced by the existence of an old tower that disappeared over a century ago and which was located near today's farmhouse Boana, an inhabited area referred to as San Pietro di Guadarobio.

So the town was located in the plain of the Versa and it is certain that the current Castell'Alfero originated from the same inhabitants who lived in the valley, who moved back into the hills restoring and improving the fortifications of the old castrum, under the protection of the Municipality of Asti, after the destruction of its houses in 1290 by the Monferrini.

In that year the Astigiani, in war against the Marquis Guglielmo di Monferrato, helped by the count Amedeo di Savoia had brought near Tonco and there was a battle in which they were defeated and pursued until near the city of Asti; it was during this pursuit along the Versa valley that the village of San Pietro di Guadarobio was set on fire and completely destroyed and the inhabitants were forced to take refuge in Asti.

Castell'Alfero had therefore the protection of the Astigiani, moreover on 3 August 1333 a solemn declaration was issued on the basis of which its inhabitants were put on a par with the citizens of Asti and proclaimed free from any dependence, except that of Asti integral part.

In 1364 Castell'Alfero, who had passed for a short time under the dominion of the Monferrini, returned to Asti for mediation of Pope Urban V in the disputes between Galeazzo Visconti and Giovanni II of Monferrato.

The town in 1386 was, together with other lands, assigned as a dowry to Valentina Visconti, married to Charles of Orleans; from the document stipulated for the dowry it appears that Castell'Alfero was a populated and walled land that formed part of the province of Asti; it is also written that the village had its municipal administration, that is a particular council, a prerogative which did not enjoy all the lands of Asti, which were almost entirely dependent on a feudal lord or the bishop.

Nevertheless, this municipality had various differences with the city of Asti; in the archive of this city there are some documents concerning the quarrels between the inhabitants of the town and those of the city; these disagreements were defined by a transaction of June 20, 1482, in which rules were established for more than fair taxes, and an arbitration of December 19, 1561, with which it was determined again that Asti and Castell'Alfero were a single body, so that each villager enjoyed the same privileges as the citizen and all were called citizens of Asti.

On 30 November 1616 during the war of succession of the Monferrato, Castell'Alfero was sacked and burned by the soldiers of the Duke of Mantua who was at war with the Savoy.

Asti had passed with the whole countryside to the dependence of the Duke of Savoy on the end of the XVI century; Carlo Emanuele I in 1619, not taking into account the previous agreements stipulated between Asti and Castell'Alfero, gave the town as a fief to Gerolamo Germonio, the Marquises of Ceva and the Lords of Sale in exchange for the fief of Peveragno.

A few years later the Germonio, on April 18, 1640, sold the fief to the bourgeois Alessandro Amico (1599-1648) who was invested in the fief in 1643.

Alessandro was the auditor of the Savoy finances and was the founder of the Amico family who made the castle his residence; the last count was Paolo Gioachino Carlo Luigi Amico, Minister of State, who died without offspring in 1832.

It was during the lordship of the Amico that the castle was deeply modified and took its current form, around 1730.

In 1643 the Amico also obtained the fiefs of Quarto and of Portacomaro.

In 1705 during the Spanish succession war a French cavalry regiment occupied the town; in May of the same year the Piedmontese troops moved to Castell'Alfero and with a sudden attack surprised the French, but they could not drive them out of the village. The Amico family became extinct in 1832 and the property passed to Arborio Mella, later to the Ottolenghi of Asti, and in 1905 the building was purchased for 64,000 Lire from the Municipality to make it its headquarters.


Administration.


Food and wine and typical products.

Callianetto, a hamlet of Castell'Alfero, is known for the quality of its Piedmontese mixed fry.

In the area you can also taste excellent wines, including: Barbera, Barbera d'Asti and Freisa.

In Castell'Alfero in 1774 Giovan Battista De Rolandis was born, creator of the Italian flag Tricolor, while in 1808 Gianduja was born in Callianetto, the carnival mask symbol of Piedmont.

Also in the village is the Rock Aid Ceroankio event, while in April, through the streets of the town, the Living Via Crucis recalls the passion of Christ.

The main sport of Castell'Alfero is the tambourine.


To be seen.

The village is dominated by the splendid Castle of Amico Counts (Castello dei Conti Amico), built in 1290 and then transformed, in the eighteenth century, from a simple military building to an elegant baroque palace thanks to the work of Benedetto Alfieri, uncle of Vittorio Alfieri.

The fortress, also seat of the Town Hall, is available to celebrate weddings with a civil ceremony.

In its basement is housed the 'L Ciar Museum (Museo 'L Ciar), an important collection of testimonies of past life. Also, worthy of a visit are the parish church of Saint Maria dell'Assunta, rebuilt in Baroque style in 1766, the Church of Santissima Annunziata, in the hamlet of Callianetto, the splendid Church of Madonna della Neve, which preserves the Romanesque features in the bell tower and the apse, the Confraternity of Santissima Annunziata, built in the fifteenth century and which preserves valuable frescoes from the 1800s, the Ciabot 'd Gianduja, rural construction of ancient origins, and the Rose Garden of the Surprise (Roseto della Sorpresa), a collection of botanical roses (over 500 specimens) collected by professor Piero Amerio, part of Piedmont historical gardens.


Curiosity.

The American musician and composer Alan Silvestri is Honorary Citizen of Castell'Alfero. His grandmother, Eugenia, was born here.