Castle of Dego
Comune di Dego: via Municipio, 10 - Dego (SV)
Telefono: 019 57 77 92
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A village in a strategic position, excellent for collecting water given its nearness to the three waterways of Grillero, Colarello and Bormida, on one of the fundamental street axes of Roman Liguria. Come to Dego and with the audio-guides by Liguria Heritage you will be able to hear the tales of a village with its roots in antiquity that supplied material for history up to the Napoleonic battles in Liguria!

Dego at the beginning of Medieval Liguria

The hypotheses on the linguistic nature of the name Dego are varied, but the most plausible is the one given by the Roman etymological dictionary, according to which the name derives from the Latin word decus, “in the shape of a cross”, indicating the letters etched on the milestones in the confining areas. Dego is actually a village in a boundary area, a connecting point with the via Aemilia Scauri and leading to the areas belonging to Acqui, Alba and Vado.

Mentioned for the first time in an imperial document which was issued following the request of the Emperor’s wife Adelaide, Dego was part of the land that Emperor Otto I granted to Marquis Aleramo in 967. That extremely important document does not just mention Dego. It also refers to those “curtes” in the “desert” land, terms that witness the recent devastation caused by the Saracens in that region, positioned between the River Tanaro and the River Urbe to the sea, if the lands obtained or purchased by the councils of Turin, Vercelli, Asti, Monferrato, Acqui, Savona, Cremona, Bergamo, and Parma are confirmed.

At the end of the 10th century our village finished under the dominion of Aleramo, Marquis of Monferrato. It is not clear what the property truly was in that period, however. It could have been villages devastated by Saracen raids or villages in which a sort or organization still existed that would have permitted growth at an economic level. Not much time passed before Dego was newly mentioned in a document in which Aleramo’s son, Anselmo, founder of the S. Quintino di Spigno monastery, donated 3 manses of Dego, 11 of Cairo, 7 of Cosseria and other parcels of land to this new religious property.

In 1170 Dego was still part of the property that was partly managed by the monastery, two centuries after it had been established.
The dominion over this region, however, was living through an important phase of transition which determined its move first to the command of Bonifacio del Vasto, and then to his son Enrico I Del Carretto in 1142, in order to enlarge the dominion over the region between the two Bormidas and the coast. The power these men had over the territory continued until 1214, when Ottone del Carretto granted Dego to the Municipality of Genoa to legitimise him as feudatory.
During the 15th century, the village passed from the Del Carretto lineage to the Marquisate of Monferrato, being absorbed in 1735 by the Kingdom of Sardinia.

The position in which Dego arose determined its luck from a strategic point of view. Just like all the property in the Bormida Valley, even if it is easier to say Savona, the story of its region was tightly connected with the Del Carretto expansion policy. Listen to audioguide 1to follow the story step by step.

From Del Carretto to Napoleon

Just like every village run by Del Carretto, even Dego was furnished with a castle for observing and controlling the antique Aemilia Scauri road. There are no documents that help us establish with certainty the period in which it was built, but it was surely the work of this same lineage, presumably in the 13th century, a period in which the territory was re-organised under family dominion.

Even though it can be visited, not much remains of the old castle located in Cua, higher up than the inhabited area of Dego. Part of the tower and the walls are all that remain of this fortress, the size of which indicates that it was for defensive or observation purposes rather than a manor for lords. Consider that the Del Carretto had a wide choice of manors, given the quantity of property they managed which began at the coast and continued into to the highlands.

The conditions of the castle that we can admire today were caused by its involvement in different battles from the 16th century. After this it was sieged by the French troops in the 18th century, and then plundered by the Frank-Spanish troops. Its last major involvement was the second battle of Dego, where it was in the fighting area between Napoleonic soldiers and the Austrians, a battle that caused the death of four hundred inhabitants of the village.

Bonaparte’s battle

27th March 1796 is a historical date for Dego. Even though previously involved as a battleground in fights with French, Spanish, and Austrian troops, on that precise date the village was involved in an extremely painful episode.
Upon the orders of the Italian Army, Napoleon Bonaparte had to face the Austrian and Piedmont troops, both of which occupied the area that connected Cosseria to Alessandria and Cuneo.

Different events followed, and between retreats followed by French victories, Napoleon managed to make the Austrians retreat to Dego, which became the place of the strenuous resistance.
While the Piedmonts took refuge in Cosseria, Napoleon decided to focus on the battle against the Austrians in Dego. The Austrians were overcome definitively on 14th April 1796, the same day on which, because of a communication error, an Austrian battalion unexpectedly attacked the village again, causing the death of the many men who were heroically involved in reconquering their region.

The intervention

As part of the integrated programme to restore the network of castles of the Del Carretto marquisate in the towns of Cairo Montenotte, Cosseria and Dego and enhance Napoleonic trails and sites, the renovation work planned for the castle of Dego meets the need to improve the building’s accessibility and usability.

The old town, which overlooks the valley, has two access roads: one that was repaired in recent years and another with several associated areas (and that is now the focus of this restoration project).
The site boasts a wealth of cultural features with its church (presumably dating from the tenth century), the remains of the old castle and the walls that once surrounded the town.

The area subject to restoration, which coincides with the main road into the castle area, was in a very poor state of repair, especially as far as the paving – originally cobblestone, though this has almost entirely disappeared and cannot be salvaged – and drainage were concerned.

The restoration work carried out as part of the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013) consists in the demolition of all the existing paving, both the lower layer of cobblestones (which cannot be salvaged) and the upper layer in asphalt (poured over the lower layer in the 1970s) and the creation of new paving in local stone.
Surface water drainage is also envisaged, as is the creation of a public lighting system and the installation of fixtures and furnishings.

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