CASTELLO DI GABIANO
SITUATED IN A DOMINANT POSITION OVERLOOKING THE PO VALLEY, GABIANO CASTLE IS ONE OF THE OLDEST AND LARGEST COMPLEXES IN MONFERRATO, MENTIONED IN HISTORICAL SOURCES DATING BACK TO THE VIII CENTURY
The Castello di Gabiano, situated in the Piedmont Region of north-west of Italy, boasts more than a century of history. As early as the 8th century, a document signed by Charlemagne already mentioned the presence of a "Cortem magnam nominam Gabianam" (a great court named Gabiano). In 1164, Federico I granted a coveted investiture to William II of Monferrato. Due to the strategic and economic importance of the Castle and the surrounding area, a series of sieges and wars then took place that have been recorded for time immemorial. The fiefdom passed to the Montiglio family, then to the Gonzagas, and on to Ferdinand of Mantua, who ceded the Castle to Agostino Durazzo in 1622. Accounting records in the municipal registers for the year 1000 already attest to the economy in Gabiano being based on vines and wine at that time.
Today, Giacomo Cattaneo Adorno, the last Marquis of Gabiano, and his wife Emanuela are equally passionate about their heritage and are determined to recapture the inherent value of this area and extract the very best of its raw materials, ensuring that the wine-making traditions are upheld, producing top quality local wines that reflect the savoir faire of many centuries, while employing the latest enological technology. The village of Gabiano produces one of the smallest and oldest varieties of DOC wines in Italy: namely, the "A Matilde Giustiniani" Gabiano DOC Riserva. The extensive range of wines, all DOC and DOCG, includes: "La Braja" Barbera d'Asti DOCG, "Il Ruvo" Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese DOC, Rubino di Cantavenna DOC, "Gavius" Monferrato Rosso DOC, "Castelvere" Monferrato Chiaretto DOC, "Corte" Monferrato Bianco DOC, "Adornes" Barbera d'Asti Superiore DOCG and "Castello" Piemonte Chardonnay DOC.
The Castle also offers exclusive and charming accommodation for visitors to stay in the area. Several years of painstaking restoration have resulted in the Casa Caccia or Hunting Lodging welcoming guests to its romantic, well-appointed 4 Luxury Suites and 2 Apartments, all ideal settings for those keen to discover and savour the enticing world of wine in a totally relaxing atmosphere. Located in the Castle grounds, you can also relax around the swimming pool during the summer months and enjoy both the estate's fine wines in the Tasting Room and selected local products which are available for purchase in the adjacent Wine Shop.
The recently opened "3 Orologi" restaurant, located in the ancient vinegar factory of the medieval courtyard, offers its discerning guests a tasting menu with dishes that are based on traditional recipes, using organic and locally sourced ‘zero-kilometre’ produce. During the autumn season, it also includes dishes containing rare white truffle, the well-known speciality from this region. It is almost worth dining at the restaurant for the breath-taking view of the unspoilt landscape alone! It is also possible to enjoy the majestic 5-hectare grounds all around the Castle, which house a unique example of a boxwood maze in the heart of the park. This historical labyrinth is one of the few remaining examples of its kind in the whole Piedmont region.
THE HISTORY OF CASTELLO DI GABIANO
With its commanding position over the Po Valley, the Castle of Gabiano, one of the oldest and largest in Monferrato, is mentioned in sources as early as the 8th century. In 1164, it was donated by Federico Barbarossa to Marquis William II of Monferrato and, contested over the centuries by various families, it was finally ceded in 1624, along with the rank of Marquis, by Duke Ferdinando Gonzaga to Agostino Durazzo in settlement of debts contracted by the court of Mantua with the noble Genoese family. The Durazzo dynasty is said to have descended from Giorgio di Durazzo of Albania, who, after being persecuted by the Turks, abandoned his homeland and landed in Genoa in 1389. Acting as silk manufacturers and merchants in Genoa, Antwerp and Venice, the Durazzo family reached the height of their powers in the late 16th century with their transition from commercial to financial activities, and they attained the ‘dogato’ with Giacomo Grimaldi Durazzo becoming chief magistrate in 1573, establishing themselves as one of the city's most important families.
Nine Durazzo family members served as doges of the Republic of Genoa. Architect Bartolomeo Bianco was instructed by Giò Agostino Balbi in 1618 to build the family residence, the Palazzo Durazzo Pallavicini in Via Balbi, and in 1774 Giacomo Filippo was commissioned to start work on the neoclassical staircase, designed by architect Andrea Tagliafichi, who also carried out work on the Multedo and Cornigliano villas. During this same period, he was given the mission of renovating Gabiano Castle and transforming it into a "summer holiday home". His interest in botany led him place particular focus on the development and expansion of the gardens. The restoration of the Castle began in 1789 and was completed in 1793.
In the 19th century, extensive reconstruction work resulted in its turreted appearance being removed and it was not until 1907, following the collapse of one of the towers, that Marquis Giacomo Durazzo Pallavicini decided to recreate the original medieval character of the building and to restore it to its former splendour, beginning with the reconstruction of the southern wing. On the advice of Alfredo d'Andrade, Superintendent of Monuments for Piedmont, Liguria and Val d'Aosta, the Marquis called upon young architect Lamberto Cusani, who had already been responsible for other restoration projects in the Emilia region. Interrupted by the outbreak of the Great War, the renovation works resumed in the early 1920s. Working enthusiastically with artists and craftsmen on the "poetic rebirth of the castle," where "it feels as though time is flowing back through the centuries and we are reliving its medieval atmosphere”, Cusani also wrote about
Matilde Durazzo Pallavicini, who he reported as "wanting to return her castle to its original state as a medieval manor”, with “a most excellent and exquisite sense of artistry”.
The labyrinth has also played a great part in this grand plan. It is one of the rarest examples that has been documented of a garden of this sort in Piedmont (there used to be mazes in the Villa Solaro della Margarita in Margarita and in Masino Castle, but these no longer exist), and is of exceptional importance not only for its rarity, but also on account of the historical period when it was created. This was confirmed by the analyses that were carried out on the specimens of ‘Buxus sempervirens’ or boxwood shrubs bordering the pathways, which date back to the 1930s. During that period, taste in landscaping gardens was well established and was often incorporated into formal gardens in the immediate vicinity of a residence, but never in the form of a labyrinth. The only documented case in which the labyrinth theme was chosen was the Labyrinth project for the Bosco Sacro Virginiano in Mantua (of which only a trace remains), that was designed by the Turin architect Giuseppe Roda. Like the Mantuan design, Gabiano's labyrinth evokes a return to the past and was part of the restoration project entrusted by Marchesa Matilde Giustiniani to architect Lamberto Cusani from Parma, to whom we owe the current neo-medieval appearance of the castle and its surroundings.
The placing of the maze in the very heart of the grounds emphasises the contrast between the rigid, geometric lines of its layout and the natural park that surrounds it, reminiscent of the medieval concept of the forest as a natural labyrinth, and the maze as an artificial wilderness where nature is tightly controlled and manipulated by mankind.
FACILITIES AND SERVICES AT CASTELLO DI GABIANO
The Luxury Suites, Apartments and Rooms are all located within the small village where the old hunting lodge and workshops have been recently restored with great respect and attention to detail, providing stunning views of the Castle and the surrounding landscape.
WINE TASTING AND SHOP
The wine shop situated at the entrance of the Castle offers visitors an opportunity to sample and purchase wines produced on the estate. There is a special tasting room overlooking the vineyards, an ideal setting for wine tasting and food and wine pairing sessions. The spacious tables can accommodate approximately 36 people, and the room can also be used for meetings and conferences for up to 60 people.
Guests can enjoy the estate's wines and sample traditional dishes with produce hand-picked from the lovingly tended vegetable garden in the Castle’s “3 Orologi” farmhouse restaurant. The light-flooded rooms are furnished in accordance with the historical architecture of the medieval village and the old barn, offering a view that extends over the unspoilt landscape of Monferrato, reaching the river plain and the mountains. It is an ideal location for indulging in a gourmet meal, enjoying a convivial celebration, holding corporate meetings, attending cooking courses and hosting exclusive events. Maximum capacity: 60 guests.
PLACES OF INTEREST IN THE VICINITY
Together with the Langhe and Roero regions, Monferrato, where Castello di Gabiano is located, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in June 2014. It is a unique territory just waiting to be discovered with its deep connections to the ancient art of cultivating vines and producing wine.
The small towns of Moncalvo (21 km away) and Murisengo (17 km away) are both home to the famous truffle and each have characteristic medieval historic centres. Cellamonte (23 km away) is a small and welcoming hamlet with houses built out of sandstone. The wineries in this area, known as "infernòt" as they are underground rooms built by hand and excavated from sandstone, have also recently been included in the listing of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Casale (25 km away) was the historical capital of Monferrato from the 15th to the 16th century and is renowned for its elegant Baroque Palazzos and churches.
Vercelli (a 41-km drive away) is the European capital of rice and represents an important commercial and agricultural centre. The Sanctuary of Sacro Monte di Crea (15 km away) is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Nestled in the woods of a 47-hectare natural park, it has an elevation of about 455 meters. The church dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta has Romanesque origins.
The city of Turin (57 km away) offers visitors a host of museums, elegant city centre streets and there are a number of royal Savoy residences in the surrounding area. The Royal Palace of Venaria is outstanding and is particularly worth a visit. Alessandria (also 57 km away) is rich in civil and religious architecture dating back to the 15th century. Alba (74 km away) is the cultural and gastronomic centre of the Langhe region. Asti (41 km away) is lively and picturesque. Genoa (139 km away) is a fascinating and multicultural city. Milan (133 km away) is the home of the country’s design and fashion activities.