Della Pietra castle in Vobbia
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località Capoluogo, 29 - Vobbia (GE)
Telefono: 010 94 41 75
Fax: 010 94 53 007
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"Visit the Della Pietra Castle listening to the Liguria Heritage audio-guides; in a perfect setting for a gothic novel, you will discover the story of the most suggestive castle in the Scrivia Valley and you can truly savour a day in the life of a castle!"

Due to a landslide, at the moment the main entrance of the castle is closed.

A fairy tale-like scenario

The Della Pietra Castle has been nestling between the two rocky spurs of Mount Cravi since at least the year 1000, when the Bishops-Counts of Tortona decided to build it to defend the road that connected Vobbia with Isola, in other words the Via del Sale with Via Postumia, from Saracen attacks.

A brief look at the castle makes you realise how readable its structure is, above all thanks to the immense restoration works that began around 1970: it is a trapezoidal avant-corps for protecting the manor house and those who administered the property.

The avant-corps, which can be accessed from the main door, was located on the most attackable side and was used as a storage area or prison. It was divided into wooden floors, as can be seen by the holes in the wall, which were used to hold the supporting beams.

"It is a structure to be discovered, the way it was built between the two spurs leaves only a minimum part visible. Listen to the Castello della Pietra audioguide 1 and the remaining parts of the castle that are hidden from sight will be revealed to you!"

Hardship at the castle

Crossing the castle entrance you find yourself in an extremely bare area, with thick stone walls and iron stairs that lead to the upper floors.
The second level holds the first room that is worth seeing: the central hall. We can almost see Opizzone della Pietra, from whom the castle takes its name, sitting at his table while he looks through important documents and manages the accounts of his property.
Unfortunately almost nothing is known of the castle from 1000 to 1200, the only thing being that it passed from the Marquises di Gavi to the Malaspinas, descendants and vassals of the Tortona bishops.

Opizzone appears for the first time in a document dated strong>1234 in which, in his own name, those of his children and his deceased brother Simone’s children, whom he tutored, he renounces “in favour of the Rivalta Abbey, the rights he and the minors had on the Magioncalda granary, belonging to that abbey, for two almuds of wheat.”

The first document in which the castle is mentioned goes back to the deed swearing loyalty in 1252 between two gentlemen and their lord Opizzone della Pietra.
A feudatory was involved in things such as disputes, the swearing of loyalty, the transfer or acquisition of goods but also routine things, even if the peaceful routine could be disturbed by extraordinary events, such as the story told in the Caffaro annals in which two nobles were imprisoned by Opizzone and freed by the Republic of Genoa’s troops.

Go through the castle entrance, go up the iron stairs that lead you to the discovery of its rooms until you reach the state rooms. Listen to the Castella della Pietra audioguide 2 and you will get to know Opizzone della Pietra and the important moments of his life as the castle owner. You have reached the central area of the building, where the owners drew up their most important documents and administered their business.

After the Middle Age

After Opizzone we have to wait another two hundred years for the castle to be used as a dwelling by its owners; it was Filippo Spinola who tried to get the castle back after his family had sold it to the Fieschi family, the same Spinola who took rebellion to Genoa and exasperated Francesco Sforza enough to make him hope for the castle’s destruction. Thanks to Spinola, the castle remained with his lineage until 1518 when it was inherited by Tommaso Spinola’s relatives Gerolamo and Antoniotto Adorno, under the condition that it would be handed down to the firstborn males and never sold.

The Adorno family never sold it, but it was impossible to hand the castle down to the firstborn male because Gerolamo died unmarried and Antoniotto, who was a Doge, passed it on to his daughter Maria Maddalena. Maria in turn passed it to her son and so on without any exceptions until 1797, the year in which the Imperial Domains were suppressed.

Returning to the question of who truly lived in the castle, we know that for most of the time it was the owners who managed the property and above all who suffered the disadvantages.
It was not easy to organise everyday life in a castle. Even the most simple, everyday things like collecting rainwater were difficult, and systems were required that were quite ingenious for their time. Seasonal difficulties also caused problems, for example the shortage of food in winter, or the cold that froze the thick walls. Even the impossibility of going quickly to a nearby inhabited centre could have been fatal in the case of epidemics or if those who lived in the Della Pietra castle became ill.

Continue your visit to the scale model room, an extremely important point for your visit to the castle. Listen to the Castello della Pietra audioguide 3: your attention will be led to some aspects of daily life in a castle, from water supply to daily problems.

A strategic castle

During the panoramic visit you can admire the central position of the castle, of strategic importance because it lies on the crossroads leading to four provinces (Genoa, Alessandria, Pavia and Piacenza). The castle was also in the heart of the valley, encircled by the castles of Montessoro, Montecanne, the Arezzo Towers and the Vallenzona Tower.
This is the only element that makes it truly important because it did not take part in any special events, nor was it challenged by the various families in the Scrivia Valley.

Its position could also lead to the idea that the castle was part of a Medieval visual communication system, defined as “the polygonal system”. This system, taken from geometry, allows a set of consecutive segments, the adjacent sides of which are in visual communication with each other, to easily adapt themselves to the morphological characteristics of an area.
In this way, using the nearby peaks as sides of the polygon, it was possible to create an effective reference system that would have made it possible to send a message from Genoa port to Val Borbera or Tortona quickly.

The intervention

The restoration of Vobbia’s Stone Castle (Castello della Pietra), sponsored as part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), was an unusual project in that the castle had in actual fact already been subject to a restoration scheme that began in the early 1980s and ended in 2003.

The recently funded project made the well-planned use of the large attic room as an exhibition space possible. A light metallic frame was set up: a system that can also be used to display exhibition panels placed at different heights so as to make them legible at different levels.

The exhibition panels installed could visually display the views from the best panoramic locations (found throughout the park and its network of castles), showing recommended routes for reaching these locations and offering visitors a true illustrated atlas.

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