The castle was built following a "Diploma" given in Pavia by the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa in 1163 to four knights from the Sannazzaro family, in which he authorized them to construct a castle "wherever they wish in their properties".
We know with historical certainty that it was built in the second half of the 13th century, on the eastern edge of the Monferrato marquisate. In 1338 it was occupied manu militari by the Paleologus family during the war against the Viscontis of Milan and restored to the Sannazzaros in 1380.
Throughout its history the castle has undergone various transformations and restorations. The oldest section is the southeast wing, overlooking the 14th-century church of San Giacomo. Here the remains of the drawbridge, a 15th-century mullioned window and a tower with reworked Gothic windows are still clearly visible. The two towers to the southwest and the northeast were probably added at the end of the 16th century. The south wing, towards the village, surrounded by a moat, was restored in the second half of the 18th century, while the most significant restoration was carried out in the 1850s and saw the involvement of Turinese artists such as Paolo Emilio Morgari, Andrea Gastaldi and Bartolomeo Giuliano. This is when the neo-Gothic windows were added and the height of the north side and the look-out tower was increased, with the saddle roof replaced by a roof with Ghibelline merlons. During this phase the entrance hall and ballroom were frescoed, and the main bedrooms decorated with wallpaper.
The castle has always belonged to the Sannazzaro family, who over the centuries hosted famous figures such as the Gonzaga princes; the King of Sardinia, Charles Emmanuel III, and his son, the future King Victor Amadeus III, in the mid-18th century; the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, and the French Emperor Napoleon III in 1859; and in 1991 HRH Prince Emmanuel Philibert of Savoy, Duke of Aosta.
Visits start from the 14th-century church of San Giacomo, which houses paintings and frescoes from the 16th century, before continuing to the entrance and the internal courtyard, which leads to the large entrance hall with its neo-Gothic frescoes. Next comes the baroque music room, filled with antiques and family heirlooms. Climbing up the grand staircase, also neo-Gothic, visitors reach the antechamber and the ballroom. The latter was richly decorated in the 19th century, including frescoes on the vault which recall the story of the castle's ghost, the young Turinese painter Grosso. He died here, a victim of his art. Four bedrooms to one side of the ballroom can also be visited: the Flower or Green room, the Blue or Lace room, the Pink room and the beautiful White Canopy room which takes its name from a French 18th-century bed. Visitors then pass on to the large wardrobe which still fulfils its original function and which is home to a small collection of irons from various periods. The last room to be visited is the parlour in the northwest tower or the Chinese parlour. The stairs of the main tower or look-out tower lead back to the internal courtyard. On the way out it is possible to visit the garden with a large English-style park and important hundred-year-old trees.
Event rental and educational activities. Bed & breakfast with three double rooms.
Local sights: parish church of San Giacomo
In the area: Casale Monferrato, Basso Monferrato castles, sanctuary of Serralunga di Crea
Typical products: wines (Monferrato DOC, Grignolino, Freisa, Cortese), own rice production
Events: patron saint's day dedicated to San Giacomo (July)