The abundant water from the Gaminella, Chiesetta, Tagliarolo and S. Andrea streams, allowing crops of cereals, hemp and grapes to flourish in the surrounding countryside, and its strategic position along an important communication route, brought many noble families to Quattordio over the centuries. They owned summer homes here, as well as farmhouses and estates farmed by local peasants.
One of the many vacationers here was Christina, the daughter of Christian II, King of Denmark, who was hosted by the Civalieri counts in the late 16th century.
Quattordio long belonged to the noble Guttuari family of Asti, who had owned all 48 sites of feudal jurisdiction in the area in addition to the Masio lands since at least the 14th century. Over time Quattordio also came under the rule of the Civalieri, Mantelli, Olivazzi and Colli families.
For reasons of both religious faith and prestige, during this historical period it was the custom for well-off families to ensure their name would live on in posterity by endowing their local churches with altars and chapels. Usually the establishment of the chapels would be linked to a bequest to ensure religious worship through a benefice for the chaplain (cappellano). It thus became common to call a non-parochial institution "cappellania".
The family giving the altar was granted the right of patronage, which, for laymen such as the nobles, was due not only to the patrons but also their heirs.
The fortunes of one of these legacies, a "cappellania", reveal a piece of the history of a building known in Quattordio as the Castello di Lajone.
It all began in 1624, when the then feudal lord of Quattordio, Annibale Guttuario, made a will in front of the notary Pietro Maccabeo, setting up a "cappellania" which comprised different properties, including the local noble and rural buildings known as Lajone.
The nobleman had a chapel built in the parish church of Quattordio, dedicating it to the Blessed Virgin of the Carmine and endowing it with a list of possessions filling several pages of the notarial deed and including the Lajone property.
By virtue of the rank and importance of the owner, the master building gradually took on the appearance of a noble residence and a castle.
When the Guttuari line died out, the ownership of Lajone was contested by the Mantelli counts, the Inviziati Baggiani and Branciforte marquises and the Cavalieri counts, to the point that the Most Excellent Royal Senate of Turin had to intervene with a decree to resolve the quarrel in 1824.
The main Lajone buildings went to the Marquis Carlo Inviziati Baggiani di Braciforte, the last noble owner of the property, which was later sold to rich middle-class landowners like Croce, Berruti and others.
Today the Lajone castle and its historic gardens have been completely restored, returning them to their ancient beauty.
Visit to the Castello di Lajone: description of the castle's history.
Visitors will be guided through the castle, where they can see the frescoed halls furnished with gilded tables, a golden throne and crystal chandeliers and religious paintings and portraits from the 19th and 18th centuries. The vaulted cellars have "bocche di lupo" (wolves' mouths) openings and an infernott: a pentagonal cellar stocked with prized wines located under the large tower. The visit then continues to the tower: the original walls have been kept in the upper part, and after climbing 100 stairs visitors can enjoy a panoramic 360-degree view.
The castle is surrounded by an ancient park, planted with Calodendron recurrens; Hispanic, Scots and maritime pines; pagoda trees, oaks and flowerbeds. The gardens are decorated with statues and have a swimming pool.
Local sights: church of San Pietro; Palazzo Negri di Sanfront, the current town hall; Palazzo Tapparone; Palazzo Olivazzi
In the area: Alessandria, Asti, Basso Monferrato castles
Events: patron saint's day dedicated to SS. Pietro e Paolo, "I Mercanti di Via Fulvia" Christmas market