CUNEO, Rome Street and Galimberti Square

Contrada Maestra

Street Rome has always been the beating heart of the town. It has had many names over time: Contrada Maestra (Main quarter), Nice street, Rue Imperial, plàtea or piassa. This last name is very important as it gives us the memory of a space used not only to transit, but also for meeting and trade purposes, the true vocation of this town since the Middle Ages. Being located at the crossroads of several paths, Cuneo has always been an important commercial hub and Contrada Maestra was the fulcrum of these exchanges. Fairs and markets were held along this artery and numerous shops opened on the ground floor of the local buildings. At first, there were no porticoes and the only shelters were simple wooden and straw canopies, so the central area of the street was even larger. The porticoed forecourts were only added later on to allow for indoor activities and increase the living space upwards. In some buildings the detachment is still clearly visible today just like the supporting elements with which the arcades were reinforced. Thanks to the important work carried out in recent years, Contrada Maestra has once again become the vital centre of the town, a pedestrian area and a meeting place for Cuneo’s people and tourists.

The Town Hall and Civic Tower

Contrada Maestra was the site of great spiritual and political power. In addition to the parish churches of Sant'Ambrogio and Santa Maria del Bosco, there are also the town hall and the imposing civic tower. For more than eight hundred years, the tower has been the symbol of Cuneo, dominating the town and the surrounding area with its 52-metre height. From its top enemies or other dangers could be sighted; the bells rang to warn the population of impending threats, but also marked the hours of the day. Today visitor can reach the top of the tower by lift. Over the centuries the tower has often suffered attacks and fires so it has been rebuilt several times. The town hall was originally located in the building at the foot of the tower, but in the 18th century it was moved to a former Jesuit boarding school. This is the sumptuous building on the other side of Contrada Maestra where the town hall still is today.

Porta Palace

A 15th-century chronicle of the town of Cuneo records the 'palasso di maravigliosa belessa' (palace of marvellous beauty) built by the wealthy Paganino del Pozzo around the middle of the 15th century. Scholars believe that this is the building on the corner of Piazzetta Audiffredi, now known as Palazzo Della Porta, from the name of the family that lived there in the 16th century. Although devoid of pictorial decoration, this building is notable for its splendid capitals carved with luxuriant plant elements, flowers, fruit and animals of all species. If you look closely you will see owls, dogs, lambs and ostriches. This richness is visible not only from the outside, but also inside the ground floor spaces: at street level there was a large open gallery with columns and sculpted capitals, later closed off by shop windows.

Lovera Palace

Among the medieval buildings lining Rome street, Lovera Palace certainly stands out. It is an imposing and elegant example of 18th-century architecture. This building was designed between 1786 and 1788 by Mario Ludovico Quarini, a brilliant pupil of the great architect Bernardo Antonio Vittone. While in other cases the houses were only partially modified and modernised in the Baroque era, in this case the building was completely rebuilt from the foundations upwards. It is a fine example of an eighteenth-century aristocratic palace, consisting of a central courtyard which is now covered and is accessed by a large driveway. The main staircase leading to the main floor is very beautiful. This was the home of the noble and ancient Lovera family, to whom several mayors of the city belonged. This is another reason why the rooms of the palace hosted important people, such as Pope Pius VII, who passed through Cuneo as a prisoner of Napoleon's soldiers in 1809. Today, the palace history and tradition of hospitality lives on as it is home to one of the town's most elegant hotels.

Painted façades

In 2015 the extensive restoration work on the façades carried out by the municipal administration and the inhabitants of the old town has brought to light part of the medieval face of this street. Traces of the terracotta decorations, coats of arms, frescoes, sundials and inscriptions have emerged. The redevelopment plan provided for a panel with images and captions for each building, to convey the richness of this urban space. The palaces of the town's most prominent families overlooked this street and the decoration of their facades was therefore a way of affirming their social and cultural status. The decorative repertoire is decidedly varied. It ranges from the simplest geometric elements highlighting the windows, to two-colour facings recalling mock architecture, precious coverings, or even genuine narrative cycles. The most important discovery was certainly the façade of Casa Quaglia, which probably belonged to the Taurini family, whose coat of arms stands out in the centre of the building. Here in 1508 a refined painter from the Saluzzo area painted some stories from ancient Rome, with references to Lucretia and the Tiburtine Sibyl. Today it is difficult to read the complete cycle because some additional windows were opened on the façade later on in history. Although the "heart" of each building is almost always medieval in origin, in many cases the outer facing has been updated in more recent times, as in Casa Demarchi, a fine example of Art Nouveau decoration with refined painted and terracotta floral themes.

Galimberti square

Cuneo's favourite square is the meeting point between the 'old' town and the new 19th-century one. In 1801 Napoleon ordered the demolition of the mighty walls of the town and so the urban layout was finally able to expand southwards. Plans for a new large square began. First laid out in less imposing forms, the square took on its current appearance thanks to the vision of the mayor Carlo Brunet and the project of Benedetto Brunati, which was approved in the autumn of 1832. However, it took more than fifty years to see the completion of this undertaking. The elegant symmetry provided by the neoclassical facades and the breathtaking view of the Alpine arc make the square welcoming despite its surface area of over 23,000m2. Originally called Nice Square, then in 1860 it was named after Vittorio Emanuele II and finally, on 21st May 1945 after Duccio Galimberti, who lived in Palazzo Osasco, now home to the Galimberti’s House Museum. The statue in the centre of the square is the work of the sculptor Giuseppe Dini and depicts Giuseppe Barbaroux, an illustrious jurist and ambassador from Cuneo.


Direction: Paolo Ansaldi
Post-Production: VDEA Produzioni
Translation: Europa 92
Copywrite and research: Laura Marino


Rotary Club Cuneo 1925