Cycle Route Po and Orba
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Added on 01 Nov 2016,
on 01 Nov 2016
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Verrua Savoia, Piemont, IT (154 m NHN)
Isola Sant'Antonio, Piemont, IT (77 m NHN)
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IT-15033 Casale Monferrato
Casale Monferrato (Italian pronunciation: [kaˈzaːle momferˈraːto]) is a town in the Piedmont region in Italy, in the province of Alessandria. It is situated on the right bank of the Po, where the river runs at the foot of the Montferrat hills. Beyond the river lies the vast plain of the Po valley.
Since it became a Roman municipium the town has been the most important center of the zone. After a spell of decline, due to the fall of the Roman Empire and the barbaric invasion, Casale became a free municipality and from the 15th century to the 16th century was the capital of the Palaiologos. Then the Gonzaga got hold of the town and built one of the biggest and most important citadel of Europe. In the 17th century and the 18th century was besieged by both the Spanish and French armies, interested in its strategical position; during Italian unification Casale has been one of the defensive bulwarks against the Austrian Empire. Today Casale, in the middle of the industrial triangle Turin-Milan-Genoa, is an important industrial center, known for the production of cement and the closed factory Eternit, that produced the homonymous material, very dangerous due to the presence of asbestos. Thousands of inhabitants of Casale have died from mesothelioma, a fatal disease caused by the breathing of asbestos.
Piazza Mazzini and its environs
The historic centre of the town is itself centred on Piazza Mazzini, the site of the Roman forum.
Main article: Casale Monferrato Cathedral
A little to the east of the square is the Lombard Romanesque cathedral of Sant'Evasio, founded in 742, rebuilt in the early 12th century and consecrated on 7 January 1107 by Pope Paschal II. It occupies a site where once was a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter. It underwent restoration in 1706 and again in the 19th century. The interior houses the relics of Saint Evasius and, near the presbytery, fragments 11th century pavement mosaics with Biblical scenes (now remounted on the walls of the corridor from the apse to the sacristy).
In 1471, after William VIII, Marquess of Montferrat had chosen Casale as the permanent location of the marquisate court, construction began of the church of San Domenico, to the north of Piazza Mazzini. Work on the building ceased for some time, as a result of political instability; in the early 16th century a fine, if slightly incongruous, Renaissance portal was imposed on the late Gothic façade.
Via Lanza, which runs northwards from the north-west corner of Piazza Mazzini, is known for the Krumiri Rossi bakery, which indeed produces Krumiri: biscuits which have been a speciality of Casale since their legendary invention in 1870 by one Domenico Rossi after an evening spent with friends in Piazza Mazzini’s Caffè della Concordia (now a bank).
Also in Via Lanza is the 17th-century church of San Giuseppe, probably designed by Sebastiano Guala. The church and convent of San Francesco, which housed the remains of many of the Marquises of Monferrato, was turned to other uses during the 18th century and demolished in the nineteenth. The high open tower which is a landmark of Via Lanza belongs to Palazzo Morelli di Popolo.
Running west from Piazza Mazzini to Piazza Castello is Via Saffi, which contains one of the town’s most recognizable landmarks: the Torre Civica. This brick tower, square in plan and 60 metres high, dates from the 11th century but suffered severe fire damage in April 1504. The reconstruction, completed six years later, produced a taller structure which included the current bell-chamber.
Adjoining the tower is the church of Santo Stefano which stands on the east side of a small square named after it. The church’s origins date to the beginning of the second millennium, but it was largely rebuilt in the mid-17th century; work on the current façade began in 1787 but was not completed until the late 19th century.
The south side of Piazza Santo Stefano, facing back towards Via Saffi, is formed by the neo-classical Palazzo Ricci di Cereseto. The imposing façade, marked by four massive brick columns, was built in 1806 to an earlier design.
Piazza Castello is a large irregularly shaped open space used as a car park and as a market square; it is dominated by the castle of the Paleologi which occupies most of its western side. The square arose in 1858 through the demolition of the castle’s eastern ravelin, and was extended in the late nineteenth/early 20th century when the remaining ravilins were removed.
The castle itself is an imposing 15th century military construction, with a hexagonal plan, four round towers and an encircling moat.
At the south-east corner of the piazza is the elegant Baroque church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, better known by its earlier designation of Santa Caterina. A master-work of Giovanni Battista Scapitta, it is marked by an elliptical cupola, and a façade curvilinear both in plan and elevation.
The theatre, which stands at the north-eastern corner of the piazza at the end of Via Saffi, opened in 1791 with a performance of the La moglie capricciosa, an opera buffa by Vincenzo Fabrizi. Its construction, to a design by Abbot Agostino Vitoli of Spoleto, had taken six years. However it fell into disuse during the period of Napoleonic rule and remained closed for several decades. After extensive internal embellishment, the theatre reopened in 1840 with a performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda. In 1861 the theatre was sold by the Società dei Nobili to the local authority (the comune) which made it more accessible to the general public. Nevertheless it fell again into decline; during World War II it was used as a store. Major restoration work took place in the 1980s and the theatre finally reopened in 1990 with a performance by Vittorio Gassman. Since then it has offered a mixture of theatre, music and dance, while the foyer is used for exhibitions, usually photographic.
The horseshoe-shaped auditorium with stalls, four tiers of boxes and a gallery (or loggione, i.e. the gods) is richly decorated with frescoes, stucco, gilding and velvet. The curtains of the royal box hang from a structure supported on stucco caryatids by Abbondio Sangiorgio who also designed the equestrian statue in Piazza Mazzini.
Via Garibaldi and Sant’Ilario
From the side of the theatre Via Garibaldi leads northwards to the 16th-century church of Sant'Ilario, founded in 380 in honour of Hilary of Poitiers. It was completely rebuilt in 1566 and was largely restructured towards the end of the 19th century. The church’s polychrome façade is of interest and it contains two important works by Niccolò Musso: the Madonna del Carmine (‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel’) and San Francesco ai piedi del Crocefisso (‘Saint Francis at the foot of the Crucifix’) originally from the church of San Francesco.
Via Roma, ghetto and synagogue
Behind the shops on the west side of Via Roma, which runs southwards from Piazza Mazzini, lay the ghetto which persisted until the emancipation of the Jews in Piedmont following Charles Albert’s concession of a constitution, the Statuto Albertino, under the revolutionary pressures of 1848. The Synagogue of Casale Monferrato is inside a building at Vicolo Olper 44 that offers no hint from its nondescript exterior that it is a synagogue, built in 1595, and recognized as one of the most beautiful in Europe. The women’s galleries now host an important Jewish museum. Of particular interest are the Tablets of the Law in gilded wood, dating from the 18th century, numerous Rimonim (finials to scrolls of the Law) and Atarot (crowns for the scrolls of the Law) carved and with silver filigree.
The Giardini pubblici and public sculpture
The public gardens which front the railway station extend westwards, dissected by various streets, almost to the southern end of Via Roma. They contain a range of monuments to figures of local and national renown including Giovanni Lanza (sculpted by Odoardo Tabacchi, 1887), Giuseppe Antonio Ottavi (Leonardo Bistolfi, 1890), Filippo Mellana (Giacomo Ginotti, 1887), and Giuseppe Garibaldi (Primo Giudici, 1884).
The most important, however, is Bistolfi’s war memorial of 1928 (pictured left). A marble exedra with four caryatids in the form of winged victories is raised on a dias fronted with steps. The bronze sculpture Il Fante Crociato, a foot soldier in crusader-period costume, takes centre stage; a second bronze a lightly robed Primavera Italica (Italic Spring) steps down from the platform and out of the ensemble.
Other public sculptures of note in Casale include the monument to King Charles Albert in Piazza Mazzini mentioned above, Bistolfi’s 1887 monument to Urbano Rattazzi in Piazza Rattazzi, Benedetto Cacciatori’s Luigi Canina in Piazza Santo Stefano.The Monumento alla difesa di Casale (Francesco Porzio, 1897; pictured right), situated to the north of the castle, commemorates the vigorous action which took place during the First Italian War of Independence in 1849 to defend the city against Austrian troops who had just taken part in the defeat of the Piedmontese army. In the Priocco district, to the south of the historic centre, in Viale Ottavio Marchino, there is a monument by Virgilio Audagna to the cement industrialist Ottavio Marchino, son of the founder of Cementi Marchino, which is now part of Buzzi Unicem.
The historic centre is marked by many palazzi which are often Baroque in appearance (though the substance is often earlier), reflecting the urban renewal which took place in the early decades of the 18th century. Among the best known are:
- The 15th-century palazzo of the marchesa Anna d'Alençon in Via Alessandria.
- The 15th-century Palazzo Treviso, in Via Trevigi, was restructured on behalf of Anne d'Alençon before being given to the Dominican convent. During the Napoleonic period it was used as a lyceum and has subsequently remained in scholastic use.
- Palazzo Del Carretto, also known as the Casa Tornielli, in Via Canina, again dating from the 15th century, now housing a language school.
- The medieval Casa Biandrate, at the junction of Via Guazzo and Via Morini, has preserved its late gothic character.
- Palazzo Sannazzaro, a gothic building in Via Mameli, remodelled in the baroque style by Giacomo Zanetti (1698–1735).
- Palazzo Gozani di Treville, regarded as the most beautiful in the town and as one of the two most important works of Giovanni Battista Scapitta, the other being the church of Santa Catarina, mentioned above. The rococò atrium and courtyard are particularly praised, as is the long and gently curved façade which follows the path of Via Mameli.
- Palazzo Gozani di San Giorgio, now the town hall, was partially rebuilt in the years 1775–8 to a design by Filippo Nicolis de Robilant. The façade is of three orders with its windows surrounded by decorations in stucco. Via Mameli.
- Palazzo Magnocavalli has a façade commissioned from Giacomo Zanetti by the architect Francesco Ottavio Magnocavalli. Inside, the monumental twisted staircase, supported by two columns, fits gracefully into a very restricted space. Via Mameli.
- Palazzo Fornara, built in 1840 in the neo-classical style by the Vercellese Pietro Bosso, forms the east side of Piazza Mazzini. The site was previously occupied by the church of Santa Maria di Piazza which was deconsecrated during the Napoleonic period. Since 1925 it has been a bank.
- Palazzo Langosco, in Via Corte d’Appello, encloses part of the main cloister of the former Augustinian convent complex of Santa Croce. Once the seat of the Senate of Montferrat, it now houses the public library.
- The neo-classical Palazzo Sacchi-Nemours, beside the Teatro Civico in Via Saffi, was built in 1750–2 by the local architect Francesco Ottavio Magnocavalli.
- Palazzo Ricci di Cereseto, in Piazzetta di S. Stefano, has an imposing neo-classical façade fronted by four massive brickwork columns, constructed in 1806 by G. Battista Formiglia, probably following a design by Magnocavalli.
- Palazzo Gaspardone-Ottavi, in Via Cavour, came into the possession of the Ottavi family during the 19th century and is noted for Bistolfi’s plaque commemorating Ottavio Ottavi (an oenologist known also, in his home town, for writing the Inno ai krumiri, or ‘hymn to the krumiri biscuits’) and a memorial tablet to Saint Luigi Gonzaga.
Museums and galleries
The civic museum is located in the ancient convent of Santa Croce, whose cloister is decorated with frescos by il Moncalvo.
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Wikipedia contributors, 'Casale Monferrato', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 11 September 2017, 21:31 UTC, <https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Casale_Monferrato&oldid=800165833> [accessed 3 November 2017]
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03 Nov 2017
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IT-15033 Casale Monferrato