Castle of Savignone
Comune di Savignone: via Garibaldi, 2 - Savignone (GE)
Telefono: 010 93 60 103
Fax: 010 93 61 57
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The fascination of the ruins of Savignone castle cannot be denied. It lies so neatly in the surrounding nature that from a distance it is difficult to identify the grey walls.
Listen to the Liguria Heritage audio-guides and you will not be able to return here without thinking about the castle and the legends told about it!

Savignone, ancient roots

Savignone, a town in the uplands of the Scrivia Valley, still maintains a certain vitality. Maybe not the same as those summers between the 19th and 20th centuries, when the population of Genoa moved to this place for their usual “holidays” or when tourists arrived, attracted by the spa centre that can be found here. During this period the town increased its residential and hotel complexes, and without any doubt lived its “belle époque”. But to reach this period of wellbeing, Savignone and its land had to follow human history, fighting against attacks, against the plague, suffer under both ecclesiastic and lordly management, to end up in the hands of the Republic of Genoa and follow Italian events until that fateful 1861, the year in which it officially became part of Italy.

We talk about crossing history because the town follows the history of a valley where villages appeared in prehistoric times, thanks to its geological structure of numerous terraces, flat areas created from the fluvial erosion of the most friable soils. In Savignone the oldest proof comes from ceramic finds dating back to the Bronze Age (16th-14th B.C.) and two tombs from the Iron Age, with equipment similar to that of the Po area, with which this area has always been in contact. The finds are proof that this valley was a “bridge”, even if premature, between the Mediterranean and Oltregiogo. From the Iron Age the Scrivia Valley shows evidence of the Republican Roman era, while there are absolutely no traces of imperial origin, probably because the villages moved to areas with commercial traffic to then return and hide in the darkest mountains when the role of Rome as a central power deteriorated and barbaric invasions arrived to give the lethal blow.
This phenomenon, which certainly involved the whole territory, was not however at the basis of the creation of Savignone. The town much more probably developed as a village around an antique Benedictine monastery that rose where we can now see Palazzo Fieschi in the main square of the town. We do not precisely know when the monastery was established, but thanks to the Privilege of Pope Marino I which refers to confirmation of the concessions to the bishop of Lodi and his monasterial successors, we can confirm that in the 11th century, thanks to its notable property, it was already important.

Savignone in the Middle Ages

A letter by the Archbishop of Milan, Pietro Oldrado, written to Charlemagne and telling that the emperor Liutprand had passed through the area confirms the antiquity of the village that has reached present day. While the remains of Saint Augustine were being transferred from Sardinia to Pavia Liutprand, king of the Lombards and Italy from 712 to 744, seems to have come across the sacred remains that were arriving from Genoa and going to “the village called Saviniarense”.

Even though in land that was under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Tortona, an element that is still current in the valley, the monastery of San Salvatore is reportedly a privilege from the 9th century belonging to the Bishop of Lodi. The Bishop was continually forced to contest the ecclesiastics of Tortona in order to keep the property until 1157, the date on which Savignone is mentioned among the other territories ceded by Pope Adrian IV to the Bishop of Tortona Oberto.
The bishops built the castle in 1207, and held it until it passed to the Marabotto family, who immediately sold it to the Spinolas until expropriation of their property in the valley by the Republic of Genoa in the mid-13th century.

A castle for the Fieschis

While admiring the bulk of the castle you must admit that it does not give the impression of a comfortable and refined dwelling. What is certain is that it was not always who held the power in the fief who managed the castle from the stately home in the town square. Once, the castle had to be in the uplands, ready to observe, defend and also defend itself, requisites that Savignone castle incarnates to perfection.

The structure has two bodies, the semi-circular great tower and the rear rampart, and its position on a conglomerate spur that presents a cliff of 150 metres on one side is its main natural defence. In the 13th century the Fieschis took possession (but it is not known how) of Savignone and its castle, which only seemed to be lived in during the summer. The fief was certainly a feather in the cap of this lineage because its position in the Scrivia Valley was excellent for connection between Genoa and the Po area and also for the importance it had acquired in time as a traffic area.

The Fieschis, who had this fief in its power, belonged to the so-called Savignone lineage, one of the two lines that were formed by the two sons of Ugo Fieschi, the founder of the strain. Some other people, who were important not just for Fieschi’s history but also for Genoa and Italy, can also be counted among them. In 1332 Raffaello Fieschi was in contact with Robert of Anjou, from which he obtained some galleys. He took on the role of ambassador several times and seems to have been the person who poisoned Boccanegra.

The 14th century saw the castle pass to different owners among which Andronico Botta and Antoniotto Adorno until the arrival of Obietto Fieschi, who re-acquired it and then lost it again, together with Torriglia. They are complicated years for the relationships in the lineage, in constant conflict with the Sforzas who longed for the property until they managed to obtain Savignone and Montoggio, the main estates. It was Gian Luigi Fieschi the great who ousted the Milanese from the valley, giving such continuity to his dominion that it passed into history with the name of the “Fieschi state”.

The story from now onwards interweaves with the ambitions of the members of the Fieschi family as to Genoa, events that end with the famous conspiracy of 1547 and the resulting siege of Montoggio which, even though not having the same consequences for the Savignone line as for all the other family members, just the same caused its general decline or at least exclusion from the role of characters in the history of Genoa and the Scrivia Valley as it had been during the previous two centuries.

But who built this castle? Was it built in the Modern era or are its origins planted in the Middle Ages? Listen to the audioguide 1 and we will tell you!

The intervention

The restoration work envisaged as part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013) aims to complete the restoration of Fieschi castle in Savignone, so as to make it possible to set up an exhibition space commemorating the sixteenth-century legends typical of the Scrivia valley.
The project focuses on restoring an area covered in ruins, in an obvious state of neglect and crossed by a section of footpath that connects the archaeological site to the nearby town.

The operation was set up to restore the castle’s stonework and make it safe, allowing visitors to observe its architectural features more easily, and to carry out the conservative restoration of this monument so as to convert it into an exhibition area, repairing the access path and managing the vegetation surrounding it.

Among the various improvements envisaged, there are also plans to install a metallic structure inside the semi-circular tower, featuring a spiral staircase leading to the upper storey, a metal grille floor and a transparent roof so as to be able to provide the use of a sheltered area.
The plans also include the installation of a metal walkway (connecting the lower entrance floor with the castle’s upper floor and leading to the semi-circular tower) and repairs to the entrance path, including the pruning of trees lining this path.

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