Giarole is a little village situated only 15 km on the northern side of Alessandria, in the Italian Piedmont region, that is said to be the region with the highest number of castles in the world. Among them there is one that attracts attention for its history and for some legends and curiosities.
We are talking about Castello Sannazzaro, situated on the eastern verge of Monferrato. This historical house, that has been in existence for almost nine centuries under the ownership of the same family, still live there to date. If you are looking for a change of scenery and want to experience the magical world of paintings, passages, historical richness and a general wellness atmosphere then this is the place to be.
Today Castello Sannazzaro is opened to the public for tour and visits and it hosts in one of its wings a bed and breakfast. Visitors always want to have hands on experience of the castle asking the owners to tell them some of the legends and curious stories that happened here over the centuries.
Maybe the most interesting is the one that tells about the ghost of the castle. It was during the 1854-1857 period that the Conte Giancinto ordered a renovation of the castle in order to restore it. He called several painters who were working on different areas of the castle: Paolo Emilio Morgari, Andrea Gastaldi and a young member of the Grosso family. This young man has just started to paint the vault ceiling when he lost his balance while standing on the ladder and died after a 6 meters fall. Legend tells that the young man’s ghost still inhabits most parts of the castle. Probably he fell due to the fact that light was fading away and this is the reason why sometimes in the middle of the night the castle inhabitants and their guests have seen all the lights of the main rooms unexpectedly turning on. If you meet the present owner of the castle during your stay at Castello Sannazzaro he will be glad to tell you about the few times he or someone else has heard him speaking or that time the ghost locked a member of the staff inside the tower! In that occasion the key to the tower entrance door disappeared and they are still looking for them!
Legend has it that the castle of Giarole has a link with the neighboring Royal Castle Pomaro through an underground secret passage. Recent discoveries prove this to be a real story after an underneath cave was discovered in a church found in the castle. The cave contains a number of heaped human bones and skulls. Several of these underground tunnels existed in this part of Italy and were used by military forces during the wars between France, Spain and the German troops that devastated Italy in 16th and 17th centuries or as a burial place during the 17th century plague.
An interesting curiosity of the castle is the Madonna of the Rosary. The story goes that before the naval battle of Lepanto in 1571 Pope Pius V asked the blessings of the Virgin Mary of the Rosary to gain favours against the Turks. This led to a tradition in Italy where the first Sunday of October is dedicated to the Virgin of the Holy Rosary. The Sannazzaro family in Giarole still goes on with the tradition to date and the youths of the family are always seen carrying the gold-wood statue of the Madonna del Rosario around the village. Below the church members of the Sannazzaro family are buried in the so called new and old crypt.
Another inquisitiveness is that of the Ghiacciaia (Ice House), a a small manmade hill covered with Yew trees at the entrance of the garden. It seems a simple hill but if you walk around it on the north side you will discover a door entrance and a short stair going down. The door hides an old Ice House used by the castle dwellers, before fridge and electricity where invented. Goods stayed fresh all through the seasons. Proof of this truth is the existing family letters in the archives that tells that the Count Giacinto Sannazzaro has hosted cavalier Della Rovere and has offered him a sorbet!
If you want to know more about these and other mysteries you just have to visit the castle! And remember, if you love mystery, the Castle of Sannazzaro is the place for you.
For further information: www.castellosannazzaro.it