Castle of Senarega
- Valbrevenna (GE)
Telefono: 010 94 41 75
Fax: 010 94 53 007
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When arriving in Senarega you will surely be enchanted by the view of this splendid valley. Small towns with stone houses and roofs covered with ciappe, the typical sheets of slate that characterised Ligurian homes in ancient times seem to be clinging to the mountains. Listen to the Liguria Heritage audio-guides and discover a Medieval corner at the extremities of Valbrevenna!

Valbrevenna, villages from prehistoric times

Valbrevenna is characterised by steep slopes that are almost entirely covered by woods, while in the uplands there are meadows ready to welcome grazing animals. If its landscape was not characterised by terracing contained in typical dry walls or by small villages, many of which are in an abandoned state, you could occasionally think that Man had never passed through here.
But Man did pass through, and remained here from the Iron Age, as is witnessed by the finds of a cemetery with box tombs, namely six sheets of stone containing urns for the ashes of the dead, and archaeological material going back to that period. Here the men gathered in villages, and supported themselves with agriculture, animal rearing and pastures. The terracing belongs to a subsequent era, when this land began to be populated with the perspective of producing what was necessary for maintaining those who were taking shelter.

The job of terracing this land seems impossible, and just as amazing is the technique used to build these containing walls. All this served for creating different spaces for cultivation and, in consequence, many small centres arose. Senarega is one of these, in fact it is almost the last one, being at an altitude of 715 m on the road that just beyond the village closes the valley.

Stop for a second and look at the entry to the village. You will need a moment to realise that you have not been catapulted into the Middle Ages and that you still belong to the 21st century.

A suggestive valley like Valbrevenna with its stones, wood and land structure, has given refuge to man since the Iron Age, when groups of humans preferred villages in the uplands rather than on the coast because easier to defend and control. Listen to the audioguide 1 and try to enter the mind of those who lived in this territory first!

Senarega Castle

You enter the town travelling along a road that is flanked by a perfectly preserved Medieval humpback bridge, useful for covering short distances and an excellent system for draining rainwater, and after a short uphill road you reach the main square, dominated by the Fieschi-Senarega Castle, which takes its name from the families that possessed it. Looking at it well, the castle has a particular shape, in other words it does not have the typical look of a Medieval castle with a central keep and a surrounding wall.
This is mainly due to the fact that its genesis did not occur in a single moment: when the castle was built in the 12th century by the Senarega family, it had a tower, to which the lower block was added during the 15th century, highlighting the simple square shape of the whole block.

The internal structure is easy to understand, the rooms still look part of a refined dwelling. On the ground floor there is a large fireplace for heating the room, while on the upper floor there would have been a wooden oven for cooking food, and from here the tower could also be accessed. In addition, the building contained various rooms used as storerooms and cellars and stories of secret passages that connected the castle to the church of Santa Maria Assunta have been handed down.
Another element that is traditionally given for true, but of which there is no proof, is the existence of a torture room and a room under a trapdoor, which does exist in the castle foundations and it is said that prisoners who were beheaded were dropped through it. The cellars later on were used as cisterns.

What amazes about the torture room is that from what is known, neither the castle nor the village were ever involved in military occurrences, and certainly the Fieschi family did not use this property to take refuge during danger. For that they could count on Savignone castle, their main residence in the valley, above all since Montoggio had been destroyed and the result of the conspiracy of 1547 caused a substantial downsizing of their property.

The castle was probably used as a control post for the mule track that connected the bottom of the valley with the crossing of San Fermo, which unites the Vobbia, Scrivia and Borbera valleys, and had an administrative and economic function.
The village and castle were acquired from the Senarega family by the Fieschi family in 1685, and were then sought after by Genoa in the 18th century, but they remained in the hands of the Counts of Lavagna until the imperial funds were suppressed by Napoleon Bonaparte.

This is the story of Senarega castle, but the suggestion created by this village is not limited to it; you should walk along the lanes which from the square unwind and lead to the various dwellings, admire the houses made of marl, the sedimentary rock that is plentiful in the area, take a look at the blacksmith’s tools and the antique structure of the communal oven that can be seen under a lane, and take a rest by sitting on a stone bench made from a single block positioned around the square of the 17th century church. Surrounded by an area that oozes the history of this rural village, it’s simple to close your eyes and imagine animals being bought and sold, the inhabitants chatting after mass on Sunday, small stories that interwove and made up the life of the hinterland villages during the Middle Ages and the full age of feudalism.

Senarega, a cosy Medieval village dominated by its castle. But who lived in the castle? And what was its purpose? Find out by listening to the audioguide 2

The intervention

The new inside layout that this building’s new purpose will require envisages areas suitable for dining, accommodation and hospitality on the ground floor, while the floors below and above will be renovated in such a way as to offer all the right facilities for overnight stays.
The tower’s large attic room will be set aside for cultural studies and research activities.

Part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013), it was therefore decided to work on two fronts: pursuing, on the one hand, the new functions that would be in keeping with the role of a mixed-use building and, on the other hand, completing the conversion of the building thanks to a judicious, conservative refurbishment that could restore this monument’s original architectural identity.

Therefore the project includes plans to repair the roof; clean, reinforce and repair plaster on the facades; replace recently rebuilt exterior windows and doors, reintroducing wooden materials and period style; recondition any original exterior windows and doors that are still functioning properly and repair the parapets on the entrance walkway in order to ensure total safety.

There are also plans to change the interior layout of all floors, repair the floors, restore the exposed wooden beams in attic room ceilings, scrape off (where necessary) plaster, re-plaster and paint walls and ceilings in all rooms, with particular attention paid to cornices and the decorative model in the entrance hall, replace internal doors installed at a later date and recondition original doors that still work, create a tempered crystal compass to be placed by the main door and, finally, replace and update the wiring, heating and sewage systems.

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