Dwight Peck's personal Web site

The Langhe region of the southeastern Piemonte

A nine days' exploration in northern Italy, 15-24 May 2018



You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

Views of Savigliano

20 May 2018

The venerable civil hospital in Savigliano. We meant to stop in to Savigliano a few days ago but were cruelly misinformed by our Volvo GPS navigator -- we were shown an industrial zone as the 'historic centre', and drove away in bitter disappointment. We're now discovering how wrong we were at the time.

We're in a convenient carpark near the hospital and two spacious parks, very near to the real city centre. Savigliano in the present day is a small city of about 22,000 souls in the centre of the Cuneo plain, bordered by the Cottian Alps to the west and the Langhe hills in the southern Piedmont region, between the small Po tributary rivers Maira and Mellea. In addition to agriculture, it prospers from various industries such as ironworks, silk and sugar manufactures, and railway locomotives -- it was a terminus for the first railway in the Piemonte, in 1853, and became established as specializing in train equipment, today famous for its 'pendolino' high-speed tilting trains. There is an important railway museum not far south of where we're parked.

This was originally called the Chiesa della Confraternita della Misericordia, or Church of the Brotherhood of Mercy, begun in 1614 and dedicated to assisting the sick and prisoners. It was deconsecrated and used as a warehouse and workshop in the 1960s, then nearly demolished in the '80s, but a 2005-2010 reconstruction project restored it and enclosed it in protective modernist structures to create the municipal 'Auditorium Crusa Neira' for cultural events.

The crack was left on the façade as a reminder of the difficulties the building has experienced over the centuries. The belltower, still in good condition, was begun in 1664 and completed in 1715.

This is the Via Garibaldi leading to the piazza of the same name, with the former convent of Santa Monica on the left, now a branch of the University of Torino, and . . .

. . . in the Piazza Garibaldi, with booths for charities on street market day, we're facing the tiny entrance to the Carrefour Express mini-supermarket. [On the far right is the world-famous Teatro Milanollo opera house, which we failed to notice at the time.]

In the Via Teatro. In pre-Roman times the area was inhabited by Celtic Ligurian tribes, but the Romans moved into the Piedmont in about 220 BC and established colonies at Torino and Ivrea, etc., to protect their access to the Alpine passes -- they left behind the toponym 'Salvianum' for this area particularly. With the decline of Roman authority in the region, it was occupied by a succession of Burgundians, Ostrogoths, Byzantine forces, Lombards, and Franks through to the 9th century, but nothing is documented from Savigliano specifically until some years later.

The first mention of Savigliano itself dates from 981, when a 'Savilian villa' is mentioned in an imperial document, possibly authorizing its fortification in response to the 10th century depredations of the Magyars and Saracens. By the 13th century, it had become a free commune and subsequently fell under the control of eminent local families like the Angioni, Acaia, and Savoia; it had also become a strategic military stronghold, holding its own against cheeky neighboring towns like Fossano, Cherasco, and Alba and, over time, under pressure from the neighboring powers of Saluzzo, Savoy and the cadet line of Savoy-Achaea, Monferrato, Asti, and the French.

We're in the early heart of the medieval town, the Piazza Vecchia, now called the Piazza Santarosa. After 1349, however, Savigliano alternated in the possession of the Savoyards and the French, and by the end of the 16th century it had entered into a cultural golden age of the arts and church and palace architecture.

Views of the Sunday street market in the Piazza Santarosa

At the southern end of the piazza, the Triumphal Arch from 1585, celebrating the marriage in the preceding year of Charles Emmanuel I, the Duke of Savoy, with the Infanta Catherine Michelle, daughter of King Philip II of Spain.

The Arco di Trionfo again, and the belltower of the Chiesa di Sant'Andrea, which dates from the 12th century but has been restored many times, most recently in 2008. In fact, it was reoriented by 180° once when the proximity of the then-city walls and the building of the Triumphal Arch caused a revision of the city layout.

Speaking of the city walls, they were removed, for all the usual reasons, at the beginning of the 18th century, and the city's importance as a military stronghold disappeared and, with it, some of the city's prominence amongst its neighbors in the southern Piemonte.

More restored 14th and 15th century buildings around the Piazza Santarosa

More street market views

Earnest diners on the run, with the belltower of the Chiesa della Confraternita della Pietà in the Piazza Cesare Battisti, one piazza north of Santarosa, and the Civic Tower on the right

The Piazza Santarosa's monument to Santorre di Santarosa (Santorre Annibale De Rossi di Pomerolo, Count of Santa Rosa, 1783-1825), a revolutionary Italian patriot born in Savigliano, who mounted a failed conspiracy against the Austrians in 1821, fled to France and England, and died in 1825 fighting as a common soldier with the Greeks in their rebellion against the Turks. (Another favorite son is Giovanni Schiaparelli, the famous 19th century astronomer, who's got his own statue somewhere round here.)

Ahhh! (But too early in the day for some of us.)

A regional specialty, originating in Genoa, Farinata, a kind of pancake made with chickpea flour -- nearly everyone at this end of the piazza was tucking in, and we ended up with several packets of the mix to truck home with us.

Very old, and very solid, arcades

The entire piazza is ringed with residences from the 14th and 15th centuries.

With architectural needs metamorphosing over time

The Civic Tower from 1303, traditionally thought to have been built over a temple to the Goddess Ceres.

A few blocks to the north, we're in the Piazza del Popolo, or Piazza Nuova, formed beginning in 1727 as a badly-needed new marketplace over the wreck of obsolete fortifications, but vacant of market stalls today.

As part of the military transformations of the 16th century, in the 1540s the French built more modern fortifcations with four enormous bastions, and when Duke Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy took over the town in 1560 he commissioned ambitious new works in the 'modern style', described as the first town in the region to incorporate the innovations developed in response to the new mobile field artillery. Back in French hands in 1562, the town was ceded to Savoy again in 1574 and from 1599 Duke Charles Emmanuel I continued the work of demolishing old neighborhoods and replacing them with still more modern defensive works -- which the French knocked down again in 1640.

The Corso Roma high street. And then at the beginning of the 18th century, all of the fortifications were considered surplus to requirements and removed, and the spaces created were sold off to private investors.

Along the Corso Roma, Kristin carrying our farinata

'To the virtue of the sacred victory, 1930 - A'. Something like that?

This is the Chiesa Abbaziale San Pietro, or Monastery and Church of St Peter -- orginally (it's said) built over a Roman temple to Diana, it was a Benedictine monastery and the religious centre of the town, attested from at least AD 1028. It was restored and enlarged beginning in 1599 and again from 1822 (especially the façade) through to 1969, and again in 2007.

The chancel and choir, with a venerable wooden crucifix by Pietro Botto (ca. 1630)

A grim statue of the dead Christ, by the stucco sculptor Carlo Giuseppe Plura (1663-1737)

This is the cloister, completed in 1621, with a garden laid out in 2006, and . . .

. . . the covered arcades being put to good use on market day.

The imposing Monastery and Church of St Peter, in Piazza Molineri

Flower vendors in the Piazza Molineri, with the Church of the Confraternita dell'Assunta, or Brotherhood on the Assumption (of the Virgin), completed in 1717 with a façade from 1780 and a hyper-decorated interior.

The Via d'Azeglio as we're veering round the turn back towards our carpark

War memorials in the Parco Nenni near the carpark. We've missed a lot of what Savigliano has to offer, but at least we've settled our score with our rogue GPS navigator.

Next: Some more castles in the Langhe area


Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 13 July 2018.


Alba and
Langhe,

May 2018