Serralunga d’Alba’s castle, an Italian icon
The fortress of Serralunga is a proper icon within the XIV century Italian medieval castles panorama. In ancient times it used to be property of the Falletti family who built this castle and other forts in the area of Castiglione Falletto, Barolo, La Morra and Roddi d’Alba. Since that time it oversees all of the surrounding lands and hills.
Built with the typical red bricks between 1340 and 1357 by Pietrino and Goffredo Fallettu, it soon became a lasting symbol of the area, recognisable from kilometres of distance for its tall and elegant profile, with a unique design for its time, still today the only French donjon style castle in Italy and open to tourists. Similar in fact to the donjon castles which we can find in the French Loire valley.
With its pronounced verticality, it was built as a great sighting point as well as a symbol of the Falletti’s power over the surrounding hills, controlling the productive activities all around the area.
In ancient times it was surrounded by a belt of walls, which gives still nowadays the circular shape of the town: a ring of houses all disposed around its cliff in order to create a first external defensive line before the second defensive line, constituted by the bastions and an internal moat.
In the beginning of the XI century, the castle’s own purpose was the sighting point controlling over the Hungarian and Saracens attacks. It has a clean architecture with a lengthened and narrow palacium, a rounded tower and a smaller angular one pensile on the northern side. The external facades are adorned with mullioned windows and string courses with bands of small pensile arches.
The castle is part of the government’s properties since 1949 thanks to the direct interest of the prime minister of that time, Luigi Einaudi. It has been consequently fully restored between 1952 and 1959. When the renovation was completed, the castle’s aspect returned to its original style after it had been used as a farming deposit and working area since 1864, year of death of Julliette Colbert, last marchioness Falletti of Barolo also known as Giulia di Barolo. The castle was donated to the Opera Pia Barolo, an institution founded by her which created an extended system of farmsteads and wine production activities.
An impregnable fortress, the result of a fine defensive engineering artwork
The external light facade of the castle hides an impregnable soul. Everything in the castle has been studied and built so that it couldn’t be conquered. It only happened once in 1616, during all saints’ night, Don Pedro from Toledo and his Spanish soldiers managed to enter the castle. They didn’t encounter many obstacles as the few defending soldiers escaped.
A shivering detail is the razor spring in the rounded tower of the castle, destined to whom was stained with the worse crimes. The convicts were lowered in the spring and the blades system would tear their bodies alive. A real torture from those times, used to give a tangible signal of strength to the habitants of the village, who could hear the yells coming from the tower.
An additional defensive shrewdness represented by the steps of the stairs: the ones of the last ramp have different heights and widths so that the enemies would falter trying to quickly reach the last floor. Falling down, they would slow the other soldiers as well and they would all be easy to defeat.
An unpredictable war machine, ingenious yet beautiful at sight.
The interiors of the castle
Today, the interiors are bare yet the castle maintains a great fascinating style from the XIV century. Passing over the external courts, protected by the drawbridge and the shutter, there is the noble hall with a wonderful panelled ceiling and a small votive chapel. Here there are some original frescoes which have been restored at the beginning of the 2000’s and they represent different saints, among which San Francesco d’Assisi, Santa Caterina d’Alessandria d’Egitto’s martyrdom, San Giovanni Battista, Sant’Antonio da Padova and the Agnus dei in the small barrel vault. The halls are characterised by big fireplaces, used as heating in winter times.
The view from the tower: the Langhe beneath our feet
The last floor, once a crenelated terrace, reveals a breath-taking view over all of the Langhe’s hills: on the west Barolo, on the east the hazelnut Langhe and, if the weather conditions are ideal, the maritime alps at south-west, the Monviso, the Cozie alps, the Graie up to the Pennine Alps and their Monte Rosa.
On the northern side you can spot the hills of the nearby Roero with the overview of Monticello, Santa Vittoria d’Alba and Guarene. Finally, south, south-east the maritime alps finish the view.
Massimiliano Romanelli, Archeologist