Castle of Cairo Montenotte
Comune di Cairo Montenotte: corso Italia, 45 - Cairo Montenotte (SV)
Telefono: 019 50 70 71
Il castello Il castello Il castello Il castello

Cairo, a crossroads between the sea and the Po Valley

Cairo Montenotte presents itself as a Medieval village but it has passed through many centuries of history, in which it was intelligently selected as a gathering place for human beings, as witnessed by the various objects used in daily life during the Neolithic period.
The presence of stone arrow heads, lance heads, knife blades and axe heads, but also burial places, are the signs of a place that people not only passed through but which was also extremely popular.

Following the Roman occupation of Liguria, a substantial change occurred when the Aemilia Scauri was constructed in 109 B.C.. The Aemilia Scauri was a road that connected the two important centres of Vado (Vada Sabatia) and Tortona (Derthona in that era).
The road headed towards Ferrania and then passed close to Cairo, where the mansiones of Crixia and Canalicum, stopping places for dignitaries and Roman officials, were located.

It is useless to highlight the evident strategic importance that this area had. In addition to Cairo, beyond the Aemilia Scauri, there was also a crossroads for Cosseria, Millesimo, Roccavignale, Montezemolo and Ceva, further stressing the importance of the road junctions in this region.
The history of the Bormida Valley remains a problem, however. The Roman presence in this area is witnessed by documents, namely the route of the provinces of Antonino and the Tabula Peutingeriana (the Tabula is cartographic, but is a copy from the modern age) which are two fundamental sources for becoming familiar with the geography of the Roman Orb, and also by archaeological excavations. Unfortunately, not much is known of the period leading up to the early Middle Ages, because the archaeological excavations carried out have not given results.

The first written documents that mention Cairo appear in the 10th century. The village is in fact mentioned in a document dating back to 967, in which Emperor Otto I donated the lands devastated by Lombard and Saracen raids to Aleramo. Cairo also appears in the act of establishment of the San Quinto di Spigno monastery, which dates back to 991.

In the centuries that follow, Cairo, just like the other Savona and Bormida Valley villages, became part of the land belonging to Bonifacio del Vasto, and then in 1214 to that of Ottone del Carretto, Lord of Savona.
It was almost certainly Ottone who ordered the castle to be built as his residence on high land at the shoulders of the quadrangle-shaped living area, and who sold the castle and its lands to the Municipality of Genoa in exchange for legitimate recognition as the feudal lord of Cairo, Carretto, Vigneroli and half of Carcare, to which Rocchetta castle was added twenty years later.

During the 14th century the territory was passed first to the Saluzzo family and then to the Scarampis who held power even during the centuries that followed, when the town was repeatedly involved first in conflicts between the imperial and French troops, then in attacks by the troops of the duchy of Savoy and then in the 18th century in the battle of Cairo Montenotte. It was added to the reign of Sardinia in 1815.

The castle

Cairo castle is famous for having been the object of fighting up to the 16th and 17th centuries because of the battles of succession between the Genoese, the French, the Spanish and the Savoys. These battles devastated this region, causing it to be abandoned definitively by the last owners, who preferred to remain in the village.
The origins of the castle go back to long ago, more specifically to the period between the 11th and 12th centuries, when Ottone del Carretto built it as his home after having inherited the mountain property upon the death of his father, Enrico Del Carretto, the main upholder of the family fortune.

As already highlighted, the position of Cairo village, which the castle looked down upon and administered, made it possible to control the business activities along the road which led from Vado to Acqui and Tortona, continuing to Alba and Asti.

At the beginning of the 13th century Otto I ceded his property to the Republic of Genoa and, following this change, the village lived through a prosperous period. There is proof that the castle had many prestigious visitors, among which Conradin, and the famous French troubadour Arnaut Daniel.

In 1322 the castle changed owners again, moving into the hands of Manfredo IV, the Marquis of Saluzzo, and then to the Scarampi lineage, which used it as a residence until the 17th century.
Visiting this military base now means visiting a building that was changed greatly, as is confirmed by the building façade which is divided into two distinct blocks for two branches of the Scarampi lineage. The remaining parts of the buildings can instead be attributed to the 15th century and the parallel plastered walls presenting the alternating use of brickwork and stone, as if to create a decoration around the windows, is an element that suggests use for residing rather than for defence.

Unfortunately little remains from the original building. Proof of the Carretto phase can be in the ruins of the tower, positioned behind the rest of the complex. The tower acted as the keep of the fortification, had a square floor and blended in with the walls, which are still partially visible.

The intervention

As part of the integrated project to restore the network of castles in the towns of Cairo Montenotte, Cosseria and Dego and enhance Napoleonic trails and sites, this restoration project – envisaged by the Development of the natural and cultural resources of Liguria project (Level 4 of Por Fesr 2007-2013) – meets the need to improve Cairo Montenotte castle’s accessibility and make it easier for people to visit it.

The restoration plans focus on external areas, the footpath leading to the site and parking areas. They envisage the restoration of the entrance (which features fragments of river pebble paving), widening it so as to allow service vehicles to use it, and the creation of a parking area designed to make the upper part of the castle accessible.
The creation of a tourist information kiosk is also planned, as well as a building providing toilet facilities with a storeroom attached.

Nota: Liguria Heritage freely offers services and technological tools but accepts no responsibility for entrance fees to the sites nor their direct management. Please refer to the individuals owners and managers regarding the implementation or changes to entry times, conditions of use and accessibility of the various sites.