Barolo e i suoi castelli

Barolo has, in fact, not one castle but two, the Castello Falletti (the communal castle) and the Castello della Volta. The first is located in the city centre, the second, a few hundred metres away as the crow flies, on the ridge that runs from Novello to La Morra, by way of Vergne. The two castles, in fact, face each other, and both belonged to the Falletti family. The position of the Castello alla Volta gave it the more strategic importance.

Castello Falletti

foto paese castello2Documents are lacking, but the history of Castello Falletti began, in all likelihood, in the 10th century, when Berengarius I allowed his local vassal to build a fortress as protection against the frequent raids of the Hungarians and later of the Saracens. The only part of the original structure that remains visible today is the keep. The first written evidence, dating to the 13h century, is a deed by the lords of Marcenasco, granting the property to the commune of Alba; it, in turn, transferred the fortress a few years later to the Falletti, who substantially restructured it into a permanent residence for a branch of the family. The public property records of 1524 document about 30 houses around the castle, which were gradually removed in order to enlarge the castle itself. But in 1544 the fortress was "ruined" and sacked by the French governor of nearby Cherasco during the lengthy hostilities of that period. Only later did Giacomo and Manfredo repair the considerable damage and substantially improve the defensive works. That rebuilt 16th-century structure remained fairly unchanged until the 1864 death of Juliette Colbert, the last Marchesa Falletti. In the meantime, the castle had already been "reduced" to a Falletti country home, since their main residence had become, in 1814, the Palazzo Barolo in Turin. Silvio Pellico was certainly among its famous guests under the Falletti ownership; introduced to the Marchesa after his decade of confinement in the Spielberg prison, Pellico became her close friend and advisor, as well as administrator of the Falletti library. They often spent long days together, in either Castello Falletti or Castello della Volta, reading and conversing. On the Marchesa's death, the Opera Pia Barolo assumed ownership and converted it into the Collegio Barolo. Significant restructuring was carried out, completely changing the structure's appearance. The Collegio, which was active until 1958, was instituted to bring educational resources to the economically disadvantaged. The Commune of Barolo purchased the castello in 1970, with funds raised largely by public subscription to which many local citizens copiously contributed. In the following years, the structure was thoroughly restored, and the results continue to impress visitors. The cellars, handsomely restructured, house the Enoteca Regionale del Barolo, while the Museo Etnografico-Enologico occupies the second floor, along with occasional art and photography exhibitions. A visit to the Castello Falletti focuses on the first floor, called the piano nobile, or noble floor, in Italian palazzi. At the top of the stairway, one first encounters the expansive, light-filled Salone delle quattro stagioni, furnished in Empire style; the paintings of the seasons, over the four doors, give the room its name. From here one passes into the Sala degli stemmi, whose ceiling features the Falletti coat-of-arms, as well as those of families to whom they were related; note the monumental fireplace and the 16th-century stuccowork. For several years now, this has been the venue for the town council meetings. The stanza della Marchesa is interesting since it has one of the few Empire-style beds on display in Italy. Silvio Pellico's room testifies to his stay here. The tapestry-like wall coverings are ingenious painted imitations. The Biblioteca he carefully administered contains some 3,000 volumes from the 15th through the 19th centuries. One should end by visiting the castle's upper terrace, to enjoy its magnificent view over the bassa Langa and some of the most prestigious Barolo vineyards. The guided tour, lasting about 30 minutes, is available in four languages, Italian English, French, and German.

Address: Piazza Falletti
Telephone: 0173 56277

Castello della Volta

foto paese castello1The magnificent location of the Castello alla Volta, easily seen from Barolo, is not matched, unfortunately, by its current state of disrepair. It can be reached by the road from Barolo to La Morra. It is quite ancient, and in all likelihood was built in the 13th century, based on a document that lists it as belonging to the noble "Da Li Volta." It passed to the commune of Alba, then became part of the Barolo fief, and finally ended up in the hands of the Falletti. Its history is convoluted, a continuous story of attempted acquisitions and attempted demolitions. The final act took place just before and after 1800, when it was fitted out as a noble residence and served as the elected spot for the last Marchesa Falletti to while away tranquil hours in the company of Silvio Pellico, enjoying the shade of (no longer present) horse-chestnut trees and the spacious views. With the end of the Falletti family, the castello fell gradually into disrepair that lasted to the present, further damaged in 1944 by German artillery. Its current parlous state does serve, however, to lend credence to its numerous romantic legends.
It currently belongs to a Barolo winery.