Il castello

From the top of the hill, the Castle dominates the whole village and the wide valley of the river Tanaro. The imposing brick structure is decorated with refined elegance. The construction is built on two main floors plus a lower one, all linked by great staircases and backstairs. The facade is rich in decorations and sculptures and it consists of two foreparts of red bricks facing south. The great staircase is made up of four marble flights lined with balustraded parapets and decorated with massive telamons and bas-reliefs from Venaria Castle. The whole building is bounded in the north and west by a vast English-style park and in the east by a hanging garden abounding in flowerbeds, fountains and trees.

The residence is mentioned in a bill of sale of 989. At that time it was certainly a Medieval Castle with ramparts and corner towers typical of the Monferrato fortresses. The present construction was built by the Solaro Counts, lords of Govone since the 13th century. The Castle, in fact, was rebuilt thanks to Count Roberto Solaro Great Prior of the Great Priorate of the Knights of Malta and to his nephew Ottavio Francesco Solaro, to whom the architect Guarino Guarini (1624-1683) dedicated the reconstruction project of the Castle itself. The work was continued by the heirs and one of them, Count Giuseppe Roberto Solaro, gives an important testimony about the participation of the architect Benedetto Alfieri (1700-1767), Filippo Juvarra’s (1678-1736) disciple, in the execution of the facade based on the elegant Baroque Guarini’s plan but in which, according to N. Carboneri “… the Guarini lines seem weakened by new decorative interests.” In 1792 Count Vittorio Amedee Lodovico Solaro died with no direct heir and the Castle and many plots of land passed to the State. Later it was acquired by Vittorio Amedee Ill of Savoy, king of Sardinia, for his sons Carlo Felice, Duke of Genoa, and Giuseppe Benedetto Placido, Count of Mariana. After the defeat of the Piedmontese against the French army, the Castle was confiscated by the French Republic and neglected for a long period. In 1810, according to a Napoleonic decree, it was put up for auction and bought by Count Teobaldo Alfieri of Sostegno in order to prevent its complete demolition and in 1816 it was given to Prince Carlo Felice who returned to be the owner of the Castle.

In 1819 Carlo Felice began the restoration and the modernization of the building and the works were under the direction of the architects Giuseppe Cardone and Michele Borda. Special attention was dedicated to the decoration of the main hall assigned to the painter Luigi Vacca who was helped by Fabrizio Sevesi to paint the walls and the ceiling. The frescos represent the mythological legend of Niobe and are a painting reproduction of the famous statues brought from Rome to Florence between 1770/1780 and placed in the Uffizi Gallery. Vacca was also the painter of the hall in the royal suites, the frescos on the ground and first floors were executed by Carlo Pagani and Andrea Piazza. The furniture of the Castle was made from 1820 by a famous group of wood carvers and sculptors working for the court, Giovanni Battista Ferrero, Giuseppe Gianotti, Francesco Novara and Francesco Tanadei under the direction of Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo. Belonging to that period is the very elegant door between the Queen’s bedroom and the little parlour, finely decorated with gilded carvings by Francesco Novara. Four halls still preserve the precious Chinese wallpapers dating back to the 18th century.

After the modernization works, the Castle became Carlo Felice’s favourite summer residence for about 15 years and here he received Monarchs, Heads of State, famous people. When he died in 1831, his widow Maria Cristina bequeathed all her properties in Govone to her nephew Ferdinanda of Savoy, Duke of Genoa. In 1855 the Duke Ferdinanda of Savoy left the Castle to his children Prince Tomaso and Princess Margherita and they kept the property until 1870.

In this year it was sold to the bankers Tedeschi in Turin and then, in 1895, it was acquired by the Ovazza and Segre who sold the lands to small landowners. In 1897 the Council of Govone bought the Castle putting the furniture and the objects up for auction. The old orangery called “La Serra” was restored by the Town Council and now it is used for meetings, conventions and cultural events. In 1997 the Castle was declared “World Heritage” by UNESCO and, after an accurate restoration, it is reacquiring its rank in the marvelous park setting.