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titolo

In Lower Monferrato

From Montiglio descend to Piovà Massaia to continue towards Castelnuovo Don Bosco. A deviation to Passerano Marmorito is advised to see at least the outside of the attractive castle. The manor house that at one time accommodated the musician Schumann, is a strong body of constructions dating between the 12th and the 16th century, still belonging today to the family of the Conti Radicati who built it in the 14th century and is one of the most representative in the Asti area. Its garden, identified among the Historical Gardens of Monferrato, accommodates a rich vegetation, among which is a monumental Lebanon Cedar and a large sequoia. Next to the access tower there are the buildings of the Zecca which is the centre for the town Library and a chapel.
From Castelnuovo go up towards Moncucco Torinese. The castle dominates the surrounding countryside with its towers, the panorama ranges from the Monferrato hills to those of Turin, from the Superga to the alpine arch. The first testimony to the existence of the manor house is in an imperial diploma of the year 1154, but the present building was realised between the 14th and 15th centuries with reworking and progressive enlargements. Here, in the 13th century Jacopo da Moncucco was born, the last great preceptor of the Italian Order of the Knights Templar before their suppression. It belonged to different noble families; in 1855 it was acquired by the local municipality and today accommodates the Gypsum Museum in which the workings and use of gypsum in rural architecture of Lower Monferrato between the 16th and 17th centuries are illustrated. Return on the SS458 road in the direction of Asti and after a few kilometres on the left the small municipality of Piea appears, dominated by the castle of the Conti Roero who, in the beginning of the 18th century, transformed it into a sumptuous residence, knocking down the ramparts, creating the noble floor and establishing the fine garden in the Italian style. In the interior the large ball-room with the frescoes of the Galliari brothers (1762), painters of the house of Savoy, is especially interesting.
A few kilometres further on towards Asti the attractive crenellated tower of the castle of the Roero of Cortanze appears, that brings to mind the fairy tales of captured princesses. The legend goes that the tower housed the ghost of a young woman, Viola Maria Galante, daughter of the marquis Ercole Roero, who died at a young age following a sad event of love and death. Viola had fallen madly in love with the young parish priest (the bell-tower of the church is actually facing the tower); after the killing of this man (by the hand of the rejected young woman or by the enraged father according to some versions) Viola, shut away in the tower, never found peace, not even in death. The whole building is surrounded by a fine park established in the second half of the 19th century. Crossing over it one climbs onto the bastions that overlook a part of Lower Monferrato, a charming and still intact landscape.
Returning by the main road, on the right hand side, one arrives at the turning for the small municipality of Soglio. Arriving in the square of the parish church, we have opposite, the medieval facade of the castle, sole remainder of the 14th century building once owned by the Pelletta family. In the 18th century the new proprietors transformed the inside and the south facade as a country residence, realizing also a small but interesting Italian garden that is part of the historical gardens of Piedmont.
Head for Monale (between Soglio and Monale, in a few kilometres, the castles of Cortazzone, Casasco, Cossombrato and Settime arise) where we find the Scarampi Castle. Cited in a document of the 12th century, it was destroyed during the wars between the Guelphs and Ghibellines and rebuilt in the 14th century by the Asinari family. The stronghold then passed to the noble Scarampi family, rich bankers of Asti. The last representatives of the Scarampi family of Monale were two sisters, Paola and Adele. Adele, a woman of great beauty, married the Count Carlo Gani, diplomat, philanthropist and already Spanish consul to Turin. Since then the Castle has belonged to the Gani family who restored it, recovering the medieval parts.
Descending on the main road in the direction of Turin, after Villanova d’Asti, turn for Poirino. On the right hand side, the building complex of Borgo Corveglia appears: the castle was built around the 15th century on the former structure of the hospital of San Giacomo, held by the Augustinians and founded in the 12th century. After the driving out of the monks, the castle and the religious and agricultural buildings pertinent to the monastery fell into a state of neglect. The vaulted room with attractive columns in brick and sandstone with sculpted capitals is spectacular.
From Villanova we reach Cisterna d’Asti passing by Ferrere. Here, in the past there were actually 2 castles, both belonging to the Garretti family who exerted the investiture rights in an exclusive way. Today they both still exist although only a wing and a medieval tower (housing a wine shop) remains of the Castelvecchio. The second, the Castelrosso, became a refined residence at the end of the 18th century and traces of its western side are still visible today. The nature trail in the park around the Castelrosso is enchanting.
At Cisterna d’Asti the castle is built in the inhabited centre with a high 14th century tower. The older parts date back to the 12th century and included the large water tank that gives the name to the village and is today visible in the large central hall. The building, in which one enters from the 15th century tower door, appears to be of the 17th century following the transformation made by the Dal Pozzo family, and from 1980, it has accommodated the Museo Arti e Mestieri di un Tempo (Traditional Art and Crafts Museum). Created to safeguard objects and traditions of the life of country people it has become one of the most important Ethnographic Museums of Piedmont. To the sides of the central hall are faithful reconstructions of laboratories shops and workshops, and in the cellars is the part dedicated to oenology, the mint and the ice house of the castle. The visit is really fascinating and attracts thousands of tourists and students every year, curious about the riches and variety of the objects therein preserved and about the beauty of the place (from the top of the castle the panorama is truly priceless).
The last stop is at San Martino Alfieri. The Alfieri family of San Martino have bound the name of their family to the history of Piedmont. Among the eminent characters that have stayed in the castle, we remember the poet Vittorio and his cousin, the architect Benedetto.
The marquis Carlo Alfieri married Giuseppina Cavour, niece of the famous statesman. They had two daughters, Luisa and Adele. On the death of Adele in 1937, the property passed first to the nephew, marquis Visconti Venosta and, from 1982, to the San Martino of San Germano family that still now holds the castle and the large winery. Beyond the architecture of the castle, designed by the engineer Antonio Bertola and constructed between 1696 and 1721 on the highest point of the village, there is also the historic garden to see. In the year 1815 Xavier Kurten, German architect and landscape painter, was commissioned by the marquis Carlo Emanuele Alfieri di Sostegno to transform the formal garden into a park according to the new romantic English fashion.