Castle of Isola del Cantone
Comune di Isola del Cantone: Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 8 - Isola del Cantone (GE)
Telefono: 010 96 36 116
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Isola del Cantone, an antique history

The territory in which Isola del Cantone rises shows the presence of humans already from the Roman era, as is witnessed by the archaeological finds that were discovered in Noceto di Isola and Cascina Cagnola. Examples are the axis (a type of money used in the Romanera) dating to the period in which Trajan was emperor, or the Sestertii that were found along the Postumia Posteriore, representing progression between Fenigo and Libarna on that same Via Postumia that was inaugurated in 148 B.C. and appeared already in the bronze Table of Polcevera Valley.

The closeness of this important commercial road favoured territorial development, but we must indicate the creation of the hamlet, that would in time become Isola del Cantone, to the foundation of a monastic cell in 1216 dedicated to Saint Michael Archangel, a filiation of the famous Benedictine abbey of San Michele della Chiusa in the Susa Valley. These new ecclesiastic foundations were typically for hosting pilgrims, travellers and businessmen, the presence of which along Via Postumia would have to have been consistent for justifying this Benedictine desire, but which could also be seen as the wish to give religious help to those who travelled along the right bank of the River Scrivia, which did not have bridges.

The events that occurred in Isola in those times are tied to the changes experienced by the population because of the continual dispute between the Municipalities of Genoa and Tortona. Their desire to dominate the area was added to an already complicated situation, with the Malaspinas, the Marquises of Gavi, and the Marquises del Bosco also in the fight for power, together with some other small vassals among which the Mongiardinos, the Figinos, the Montaltos, the Grondonas, the Pobbietos, the Lords Della Pietra and the Ospinellis. During the first half of the 13th century Isola was part of the dominion of the Marquises of Gavi, but the rights were surrendered to the Municipality of Tortona on 14th December 1244, together with the territories and vassals that the family had in Arquata, Pietrabissara, Isola, Grifoglieto, Vocemola, Prarolo and the toll on the Via Postumia Posteriore in Campolungo di Isola.

It is documented that the Spinolas arrived in the jurisdiction of Isola on 29th August 1256. This does not mean that the whole fief of Isola was passed to the Spinolas, but that the requirements for purchase were established. Even if not certain, the purchase would have been made during the second half of the 13th century. Once lordship on Isola was obtained, the Spinolas established the hub of their power in the valley, which gave them prestige from a strategic and economic viewpoint. This dominion lasted until 1797, when the imperial lands of the Scrivia Valley were taken by Napoleon Bonaparte.

The castle

Its internal area has now been restored thanks to the Regional Operational Programme (Priority axis 4), which uses funds from the European Union issued from 2007 to 2013. It can now be visited in its new role as the Scrivia Valley Archaeological Museum, but once upon a time this structure that faces the River Scrivia, and which is easily reached from the station of Isola del Cantone, was one of the power hubs of the Spinola lineage, a family that owned many castles and settlements in the Scrivia Valley.

The castle, as it can be seen today, has an L-shaped body, closed to form a quadrilateral by two curtains and a circular tower, probably from the first building. The part of the castle on the mountain side, that to which the circular tower refers, with its vertical wall that still shows the construction technique using large stones at the bottom and smaller stones alternated with rows of bricks in the upper part, is still private property, while the river side is managed by the Municipality.
This portion of the castle includes the loggia on the River Scrivia, built in the 17th century to solve the stability problems in the south-western corner of the structure.

From a documental point of view, the castle is mentioned from 1394, around thirty years after its construction. It was built because the Spinola government required a seat following the division of the fiefs of the Scrivia and Borbera Valleys.
Even though it was a Spinola dominion until 1798, it had lost its defensive function already from the 1500s, becoming exclusively a political-administration seat.

The castle was then ceded at the beginning of the 1800s to the De Negri – Zuccarino family, which modified the distribution of the internal spaces and windows on the piano nobile, allowing more families to use it as a home.


You can say a castle for each river. With the castle that rises on the banks of the river Scrivia counterbalancing the bulk of the second Spinola castle in Isola del Cantone, which is just a short distance away and in a higher position in the hamlet of Piano. The name Mignacco was added to this castle because it was the name of the family that bought it in 1865 and which still today looks after its maintenance and management.

The castle was built most probably between 1553 and 1562, and was attributed to Captain Guglielmo II Spinola, who never used it as a defensive building but immediately as a house. The structure, square-shaped, has a court that can be reached through a gate positioned between the two circular corner towers and a main body with three levels. Tied to the Spinolas until the 19th century, it was often reconstructed during its life, so modifying the original layout.

The intervention

Nineteenth-century renovations, rainwater damage, years of neglect and the lack of standard maintenance and small repairs have led to a general state of decay, affecting both this building’s features as well as its structure.

The work envisaged as part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013) began with the structural reinforcement of the loggia and continued with the restoration of the main building.
This particularly focused on the wooden roof and the interior layout – as over the years both the ceiling and the original network of staircases had disappeared – and the creation of a new wooden ceiling in the attic, able to recreate the way these rooms looked at the time when the building belonged to the Spinola family.

The installation of a lift and improvements made to fixtures and fittings in the various rooms, as well as maintenance of the outdoor areas, are the final touches of this renovation project.
At the end of these improvements, the building will once again be completely accessible and will offer, among other things, a particularly interesting view of the town on the left bank (Isola) and the Scrivia River.

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