Two steps through Castelnuovo Don Bosco, the “Land of Wines and Saints” of the High Astigiano.
Castelnuovo Don Bosco is known throughout the world for being the “Land of Wines and Saints”: here, among the rows of Malvasia and Freisa, were born Saint Giovanni Bosco, Saint Giuseppe Cafasso, the blessed Giuseppe Allamano, the cardinal Giovanni Cagliero, and died, in the hamlet of Mondonio, Saint Domenico Savio.
The village covers an area of 21.61 km², in the extreme north-west of the province of Asti, in a hilly area; it is populated by about 3200 inhabitants.
It is about 33 km from Asti, the provincial capital.
In the past it was called Castelnuovo d'Asti, then became Castelnuovo Don Bosco in honour of the famous Don Giovanni Bosco.
Castelnuovo Don Bosco adheres to the brotherhood pact among all the municipalities of Italy called Castelnuovo (26 in total).
The brotherhood pact was signed in 2004 in the offices of the local municipality (via Roma 12).
The village was already populated in Roman and pre-Roman times, as evidenced by the numerous archaeological founded in the area. Significant is the fragment of lapidary found near the Malino di Ramello farmhouse.
The birth of the town dates back to the year 1160 under the sovereignty of the Marquises of Turin; it subsequently became a possession of the Marquis of Ivrea from which the families of the counts of Biandrate and the Rivalba originated.
The Biandrate fought alongside Emperor Federico Barbarossa and gave the territory of Castelnuovo to the Rivalba, their relatives. The emperor granted the territory to the Marquises of Monferrato to reward their loyalty.
The most important historical period for Castelnuovo dates back to the 12th-13th centuries, when the fiefdom once again returned to the powerful Rivalba family, after a brief period of submission to the city of Chieri.
The Rivalba consolidated the presence of Castelnuovo as a castle-fortress to defend against the incursions of Chieri and the Count of Savoy.
In 1290 Castelnuovo territory passed under the dominion of Asti; the continuous wars that inflamed northern Italy brought Castelnuovo back, after only 40 years, under the dominion of the Marquis of Monferrato.
With the revolt against the feudal system and the imperial authority, the municipality experienced a period of economic development but the progressive establishment of the principalities, instead of the small municipalities, forced Castelnuovo to abandon the autonomy conquered just two centuries earlier, passing under the dominion of Emanuele Filiberto Duca di Savoia.
The town was a base camp for the Savoy troops fighting against the French and Spanish; the epidemics of plague and cholera, in the seventeenth century, did not spare the castelnovesi and caused the death of several people.
From 1710 onward, Castelnuovo continued to be part of the Kingdom of Savoy, the driving force behind the unification of Italy.
(Source: Notes freely taken from “Castelnuovo don Bosco - notizie storiche” by Angelo Baumgartner)
In Castelnuovo Don Bosco is located, in Via Roma, the Unione di Comuni Alto Astigiano.
Food and wine and typical products.
Once in Castelnuovo Don Bosco you can taste some of the most characteristic dishes of the gastronomic culture of Monferrato: the ancient finanziera, the Piedmontese fried fry, and the apple pie, accompanied by the wines Freisa d'Asti and Malvasia di Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
The production of honey, grappa, and vinegar is also thriving on the territory.
For mushroom lovers, the stage of the Regional Truffle Fair is noted in November.In summer, instead, everyone must go to the famous Sausage Festival (Sagra della Sautissa) starring the sausage, proposed in different variations.
To be seen.
Up there, majestic and enviable by its beauty, on the Colle Don Bosco, stands the Basilica of Don Bosco, built between 1961 and 1966 where stood Biglione - Damevino, home of Giovanni Bosco.
In the area adjacent to the Basilica worth a visit Saint Giovanni Bosco's birthplace and Sanctuary, where the saint lived until the age of 16, the Museum of Rural Life (Museo della Civiltà Contadina dell’Ottocento), in which there are over 700 tools of rural life of the nineteenth century, and the Don Bosco Missionary Ethnological Museum, a collection of typical objects brought to Italy by Salesian missionaries returning from expeditions around the world.
Even the historic centre of Castelnuovo Don Bosco is a treasure trove of beauty not to be missed.
Starting from the Town Hall, in via Roma, going up towards the Sanctuary of Madonna del Castello and Tower of Rivalba Castle, the first stop is dedicated to the grandiose Monument to Saint Giovanni Bosco, erected in 1898.
Nearby is the birthplace of Blessed Giuseppe Allamano, founder of the Congregations of the Missionaries of the Consolata.
Continuing along the ascent of via Umberto I, and in the surrounding streets, you can see: the deconsecrated Church of the seventeenth-century Confraternity of Saint Bartolomeo, which houses baroque stuccoes and a seventeenth-century bas-relief, now used to host cultural events, and the parish church of Saint Andrea Apostolo, built in the early seventeenth century.
A few steps away is Villa Filippello, an impressive Art Nouveau building with an adjoining large garden, Rivalba Palace (Palazzo dei Rivalba), in Baroque style, surmounted by a tower, the birth house and the chapel of Saint Giuseppe Cafasso, a Turin social saint.
The municipal territory is further embellished by the presence of splendid Romanesque churches: the Church of Saint Maria di Cornareto, dating back to the twelfth century, which stands on a lovely hill covered with vineyards, the Church of Saint Eusebio (XI century), probably the first parish church of Castelnuovo Don Bosco, and the Church of Saint Maria di Rasetto (or Raseto), also an ancient parish church that was abandoned when the population moved to form the village of Mondonio.
The itinerary to discover Castelnuovo Don Bosco can be enriched with further stops in the pretty village of Mondonio, located at the centre of the naturalistic site of the Boschi di Muscandia, a humid green area that crosses the countryside of the Low Monferrato.
Here there are the Saint Domenico Savio's House, a pupil of Saint Giovanni Bosco who died at the age of only 14, the Turco Castle (Castello dei Turco), destroyed in the fifteenth century and of which a tower is still visible, the parish church of Saints Maria e Giacomo and the aforementioned Church of Saint Maria di Rasetto (or Raseto).
For nature lovers, it is recommended a visit to the natural sulphur source, to the Giant Verdigris Bench, in the hamlet of Bardella, the Xiloteca and Eco Museum of Low Monferrato (Xiloteca ed Ecomuseo del Basso Monferrato Astigiano) and, during the flowering period, to the lavender field of Cascina Gelosia.
Mondonio is today a hamlet of Castelnuovo Don Bosco but still maintains its strong identity spirit: it was a municipality until 1929, that is until the Government decided to suppress the small municipalities and aggregated Pino d'Asti and Mondonio to Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
With the end of the fascist regime, in 1946, many centres were restored, including that of Pino d'Asti.
It was not the same for Mondonio, although his campaigns had already rung for the party.
Never ask an inhabitant of Mondonio to say "I'm from Castelnuovo": he will always answer that it is from Mondonio and that's it.
In fact, if you look closely at the services active in the village you will find many of the hallmarks of a municipality: they have their parish, the plaque to the fallen, the cemetery, the castle and once they had the school.
Mondonio has added to his name that of San Domenico Savio, a tribute very much felt to his Saint; here the little Domenico lived, died and was buried in the hamlet cemetery until the Salesians, in 1914, decided to move his tomb in a side altar of the Basilica of Maria Ausiliatrice, in Turin, where Don Bosco is also buried. The news raised not a few bad moods to Mondonio but now Domenico Savio no longer belonged only to the village, but to Christianity.