FOSSANO, Castle of the Acaja


Symbol of the city of Fossano, the castle rises behind the central Via Roma, and is today surrounded by a large square. Its construction marks a turning point in the history of the city. At the beginning of the fourteenth century, the people of Fossano made an act of commitment to the Acaja, the cadet branch of the Savoy family to be protected from the attacks of neighbouring powers. Because of this submission, the prince undertook to building a fortress at his own expense, which was completed in 1332: Four towers with a square plan rose towards the sky, connected by crenelated curtains; a wide moat surrounded the fortress on three sides, which could be crossed with a drawbridge. After the extinction of the Acaja, possessions passed to the Savoy family who, around 1485, promoted the transformation of the castle into a palace; from that moment the building would be used mainly as a residence.

The courtyard

The various stages of the life of this building can be perceived in the courtyard. The beautiful portico is a fifteenth-century addition and shows a series of capitals with leaves and the Savoy coat of arms. The wing in front of the entrance constituted the actual palace and housed the meeting rooms of the Duke; this part was embellished by a loggia on two floors, then destroyed, while traces of fifteenth -century frescoes can still be seen on the first floor. From the end of the seventeenth century, the castle was no longer used as a residence, but as a prison, especially for the Waldensians. A side passage leads to the basements: here, also due to the presence of an ice house, the temperature was low and allowed the storage and conservation of foodstuffs. The direct connection with the kitchens ensured maximum efficiency.

Hall of grotesques

The hall of grotesques is the only decorated place that has come down to us. Its creation is thanks to the Flemish painter Giovanni Caracca and dates to the end of the sixteenth century, when the castle was inhabited by Charles Emmanuel I, Duke of Savoy and his wife Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain. The room was probably for the personal use of the dukes whose coats of arms appear in the centre of the vault. Even the signs with the “fert” motto refer to Savoy commissioning. Negative and positive mottos appear along the walls; the birds painted on the lunettes refer to them: a harpy, a bird of prey, a bird of paradise and a parrot. All around, slight grotesques dedicated to the gods of the ancient world stand out on the white background. Grotesques are a particular type of pictorial decoration inspired by Roman painting from the Augustan period; this genre became very fashionable after the discovery of the Domus Aurea of Nero.

The towers and patrol paths

The panoramic tower offers a fantastic all-round view of the city and the Alps of southern Piedmont. The original structures have undergone changes, such as the addition of the loggias at the end of the sixteenth century or the insertion of nineteenth-century turrets, containing the service stairs. The towers are connected by patrol paths, which are still accessible: originally, they were wooden walkways with awnings and were later made with stone and covered.

Archive and library

Since the eighties of the twentieth century, the castle has been a place of culture and memory of the city: it houses the civic library and the municipal archive. The library has a heritage of over 145.000 volumes and organises numerous reading and entertainment activities for children. The historical archive conserves the city’s history since its medieval origins, with documents from the XIII century, including the “Green Book” – a collection of the first public attestations of the new-born Municipality –, The act of submission to the princes of Acaja in 1314, the fifteenth-century statutes, the patent letters of Emmanuel Philibert for granting the title of “City”. The documentary records are accompanied by a series of maps and ancient land registers: a figurative testimony of the territory from the eighteenth century to the last one.

Mario Vallauri donation

This is the private library of the famous Orientalist; a book collection of over four thousand volumes, including Sanskrit texts and dead languages; a collection of ancient bibles, numerous sixteenth-century ones, valuable editions ranging from medicine to literature, to botany and to travel texts. Because of the bibliographical type and the rarity of the preserved works, it is accessible to scholars, who in the specialised nature of the sector, can find results for their research that are otherwise difficult to source.

The castle today

Today the castle is a major tourist attraction for the city and is a backdrop for the most popular and suggestive events, including the historical “Giostra dell’Oca, which recalls the passage to Fossano by Charles Emanuel I and the Infanta Catherine Michelle of Spain, which took place in1585 during their honeymoon trip from the Iberian Peninsula to Turin.


Direction: Paolo Ansaldi
Post-Production: VDEA Produzioni
Translations: Europa 92
Copywriter and research: Laura Marino
Photo credits: Palio dei Borghi e Giostra de l'Oca - Foto Simone Mondino; Mirabilia al Castello di Fossano – Foto Andrea Macchia


ROTARY CLUB Cuneo 1925



Luca Bedino, Roberto Bianco, Agata Pagani, Federica Panero