Dramatic and impressive, the Castello di Piovera is located just a few kilometres from the “Alessandria Est” exit of the A21 motorway.
Surrounded by an extensive park with an attached farm, the castle is still defended by its curtain walls and moat dating back to the 14th century.
Built on the site of previous Roman and Carolingian encampments and the ruins of a convent, the castle was constructed as a fortress by the Visconti family of Milan. It then passed into the hands of the Mandellis, the Gallaratis, the Spanish Omodeis, the Sforzas and then the Savoys, who conferred the Piovera estate to Francesco Maria Balbi, the last feudatory. In the 19th century it was transformed into the Romantic-style noble residence seen today, though the original U-shaped structure was kept intact. The castle still shows traces of black plaster, perhaps applied in mourning for the death of Napoleon Bonaparte.
In the 1960s it passed into the hands of the pioneering Count Niccolò Calvi di Bergolo who opened it to the public, becoming an example to other owners of private historical residences.
Visits take in the castle’s main floor, from the tower at ground level to the kitchens, and continue around the castle’s outbuildings, the ancient granaries and the stables, home to a museum of ancient crafts and an important collection of contemporary art put together by the count and his circle of artists.
The current owners have also created a series of educational, historical, artistic, cultural and nature itineraries around the castle and its gardens, open to the public and designed specifically for students. With prior booking, school groups can spend a fun day at the castle, touring the grounds and taking part in workshops as part of the programme offered by the Castello di Piovera Educational Farm:
1) Castle tour. 2) Nosing around the library, the history of books. 3) Discovering the five senses, playful exploration of the senses. 4) In the museum, remembering ancient crafts. 5) Playing and art, suggestive creativity. 6) The garden and the park, paths through nature. 7) In the kitchen with Paola, primary prevention and food culture with nutritionist Paola Reverso.
Places can be booked for a course on etiquette and table setting held by etiquette teacher Elda Lanza.
Educational activities for schools. Event hire. Works by N. Calvi di Bergolo and other contemporary artists.
Local sights: Auditorium
In the area: Alessandria, Valenza (gold and jewellery production)
Sport: swimming, tennis, football, hiking
Events: “Festa dell’Agricoltura” at the castle (third week of June), exhibitions of contemporary art (spring and autumn), classical and modern music concerts
Piovera: open-air museum, with contemporary sculptures displayed around the village streets as part of an itinerary called Modern Fossils