Close your eyes and wake up in a medieval dream: Montabone, the land of Guglielmo Caccia, the Raffaello of Monferrato.
Montabone will amaze you, this little gem of a village, perched on the hill that gives it its name, in a magnificent panoramic position and in a happy climatic situation.
The historic center is one of the best preserved of the High Monferrato and a skillful administrative action has allowed the recovery of most of the old stone houses and the most picturesque corners of the town, especially along the steep central road that leads from the 14th century parish church and the open space held in the garden and playground where in ancient times the castle stood.
The Montabone countryside lends itself to walks and hikes through woods and vineyards, on foot, on horseback or by mountain bike.
Town covers an area of 8.54 km² and has a population of about 340 inhabitants.It is 40 km from Asti, the provincial capital.
The remote origins of Montabone are not to be found in the current concentric but in the fertile vineyards of the district.
The Romans, strong of their own colony of Aquae Statiellae, did not miss the opportunity to tear and work the lands of the surrounding hills and founded numerous villas, ie farms, complete with farmhouse, cellar, barn, housing for slaves and various dependencies.
Some of these settlements are still traced in the local toponymy, such as the town of Cornegliano, a real agglomeration today divided between Montabone and Castel Boglione, which derived its name from the personal Cornelius.
The same happened for other rustic funds, namely the farms of the Romans Orio and Nepos (or Nepotianus), present in the countryside of Montabone as Oriano and Nipiano.
With the advance of the Barbarians and the gradual conquest of northern Italy by the Germanic speaking peoples (Sarmatians, Goths and, later, Longobards), the military and family group of the German Abbo took up residence, as usual for reasons defensive and offensive, on the hill, where arose, with the castle, the first urban agglomeration that gave life to the village of Montabone.
So Montabone, like Mombaldone (Mons Baldonis), Ricaldone (Runcus Aldonis) and many other places in Piedmont originates from the word Mons (hill) and from the genitive form of the staff of the German Abbo-Abbonis: therefore, "Hill of the Germanic Abbo".
In the local dialect the etymology of "monte buono" is corroborated, for the goodness of the wines produced there, which, even if it has no historical basis, is still a tangible truth in fact.
Just stop in a cellar to convince yourself!
The first safe and documented historical information dates back to 1040, when William, son of Dodone, ceded the village to the church of Acqui and the monastery of Saint Pietro. In 1100, by the permission of Azzone, Bishop of Acqui, the men of Casanova were invested with the lands of Montabone.
As happens throughout the territory between Bormida and Belbo, little by little the ecclesiastical power replaces the civil one, as confirmed by the concession made in 1116 to the church of Acqui by the emperor Henry V, where also appears the castle of Montabone.
Food and wine and typical products.
Land of great DOC and DOCG wines, among which stand out the sweets Moscato and Brachetto, the delicate Dolcetto and the robust Barbera d'Asti and Barbera del Monferrato
To be seen.
The urban structure of Montabone is still that of the medieval fortified shelter, with the access defended by a robust arched urban door that today, after the restoration, constitutes a kind and suggestive invitation to enter the town.
Immediately outside the door, we find the Church of Santissima Annunziata, now in disuse, which preserves traces of the original 16th-century construction.
Going up the central street, studded with stone buildings, we reach the summit of the concentric, a vast vaguely circular open space, currently intended for recreational activities and a public garden, where probably the castle was located, of which traces have been lost.
On the opposite side of the town stands the Church of Saint Rocco, built in the eighteenth century in rustic baroque style.
A few minutes from the concentric, isolated in the silence of the wood, worth of visiting is the Church of Saint Vittore, made entirely of stone.
The most illustrious and famous historical figure to whom the village of Montabone gave birth is surely Guglielmo Caccia, painter of the Counter-Reformation, who was able to elevate the pictorial art, bringing his colors and his poetry in the Monferrato up to be defined as Raffaello of Monferrato.
Some writings report its birth to 1565, others to the more probable 1568, even the place of birth remained uncertain for many years with various assumptions among which the northern Astigiano and the Novarese.
The sentence with which he signs one of the frescoes painted in Candia Lomellina in the church of Saint Michele: "Gullielmus Caccia a Montabono pingebat 1593 die XXIV Julii" removes any doubt, subsequent archival consultations will also indicate the birthplace on which during the celebrations of the fourth centenary of the birth was placed a memorial plaque by the municipal administration of Montabone, it was May 9, 1968.
The farmhouse is located southeast of the village of Montabone and from there the young Guglielmo could admire the hill dominated by the castle, the houses and the bell tower of the church.
Parents Giovanni Battista and Margherita led a simple life of sacrifice and work, cultivating the few hectares of land they owned and selling a chestnut wood, to start their son up for painting.
Soon the young man went to shop with some local painter, perhaps in Acqui, to learn how to prepare and knead the colors and the craft of painting, it is hypothesized a stay at the school of Alladio influenced by the painter Macrino d'Alba and in turn by more famous Foppa and Perugino.
The city of Alba not so far culturally and economically from Montabone remained the same and influenced the contacts also in 1800, century deprived, as then, of comfortable means of transport.
The young man's talent was perhaps recognized by some montabonese and encouraged to cultivate this vocation with the exercise, perhaps some youthful works could exist on the walls of the church mentioned in the apostolic visit of Monsignor Gerolamo Ragazzoni, Bishop of Bergamo, in 1577, or the Church of S. Maria di Castello, perhaps the primary seat of the Confraternity of Disciplinati, adjacent to the fortified complex, or in the cemetery church of S. Thomaso, which later in other documents is called the SS. Annunziata and located on the same site as the current oratory.
In the Church of Annunziata, the documents remind us that "on the altar of the functions there was a picture of the famous native Caccia of Montabone, representing the Annunciation made by the Archangel Gabriel to the Blessed Virgin, robbed in the night between 16 and 17 May 1909 cutting the canvas from the frame.
The request was made in 1936 to be able to execute a wooden group of the Annunciation to replace the painting by Guglielmo Caccia called Il Moncalvo with the work of Emilio Demetz, a sculptor.
Perhaps in addition to the canvas there were youth frescoes but of all this, unfortunately, even following the stratigraphic investigations, there is no trace.