In the “mystique” quiet of San Marzano Oliveto, among the aromas of apples and the castle of the Asinari.
The Municipality of San Marzano Oliveto is located in a panoramic position, 300 meters above sea level. It is visible from the Strada Provinciale 6 (to Asti).
The landscape of San Marzano remembers at times the Tuscan and Umbrian and its almost mystical peace, an irresistible attraction on foreigners, many of whom have chosen it as their residence, at least for a part of the year.
Among these the German painter Viktor Möllerstaedt, whose works, exhibited in several local exhibitions, consisting of scenographic projects, are inspired by the fifteenth-century Italian art.
San Marzano Oliveto covers an area of 9.68 km² and has a population of about 1030 inhabitants.
It is 24 km from Asti, the provincial capital.
The name of San Marzano was imposed by deference to Saint Marziano, perhaps the first bishop of Tortona (IV century) or bishop of Ravenna who was martyred in Tortona.
The origin of the village dates back to the ancient Ligurians, but it is with the arrival of the Romans that we have the first news and testimonies of San Marzano's antiquity.
According to tradition, the four towers, now disappeared, of the Castle were of Roman construction.
A plaque of the Superintendent of Cultural Heritage refers to this in presenting the work:
«Roman construction, built before the year 1000, it was enlarged in 1217».
The Middle Ages and the Asinari.
The history of San Marzano Oliveto like that of Moasca (with which from 1929 until the post-war period has unified its administration), of Calamandrana, of Rocchetta Tanaro, of Calosso, is linked to that of Canelli.
All involved in the struggle between Asti and Alessandria and the Marquis of Monferrato.
From the mid-fourteenth century, S. Marzano is in the hands of the Asinari, lords also of Costigliole and Moasca and other countries.
In 1280 Bonifacio Asinari, a rich merchant from Asti, left his wealth to his sons; two of them, Bonifacio and Tommaso became co-owners of the fief of San Marzano.
In memory of the presence of this family, in the territory of San Marzano, there is a place that has preserved the toponym of Asinari valley.
The modern age.
In 1771, Filippo Valentino Asinari was feudal first marquis of San Marzano and Caraglio; his son, Filippo Antonio Maria (1767 - 1828), was a councillor of state and sent by Napoleon Bonaparte as ambassador to Berlin. In 1808, he became Count of the Empire and in 1813 he was senator and regent of Piedmont.
The Resistance in San Marzano started earlier than in other towns in the area.
On December 24 and 25, 1943, first from Nizza Monferrato and then from Asti, there were tough round-ups by soldiers of the Salò Republic, with searches in the houses.
Not finding partisans, four hostages were taken to the prisons of Asti. With fury the raids were repeated by the Black Brigades, of the soldiers of the "Muti", of the Germans.
Food and wine and typical products.
Agriculture is the main and traditional activity of San Marzano.
The arable land accounts for 75% of the total area.
There are about 300 people employed in agriculture. The mild climate and the geomorphological characteristics favour the fruit growing (to which 220 hectares are destined) and in particular the apple-growing (with about 200 employees) that, after a period of crisis due to the competition of the regions north-eastern Italy, has recovered well.
Thanks to the initiative of some producers, the annual production of apples are about 40 thousand quintals.
For 80% of Golden Delicious quality, the remaining 20% of the Stark and Cuper types.
There is also a good production of wine (especially Barbera).
To be seen.
Cited by the Alfieri as “San Marzano di Acquosana”, the first documents concerning the Castle of Asinari date back to the birth of the Contado di Acquosana (the ancient territory of Acqui Terme).
The castle, perhaps of Roman origin, by the Asinari assumed the characteristics of a real defensive bulwark, building on its four sides square angular towers, one of which is still equipped with drains.
After the occupation of the Spaniards in 1655, the Asinari regained possession of it and transformed the fortress into a country residence.
Impressive and suggestive, it is now privately owned and used to host events and weddings.
Its ancient cellars with arches and vaults recall the interior of a Gothic cathedral, and from its splendid terrace-garden one can admire one of the most beautiful views of the area.
Worthy of note is the parish church dedicated to Saint Marziano, in classical Renaissance style, with a nave with a presbytery and a neoclassical choir, which stands on the Piazza del Castello; founded in the XIII century, it was enlarged between 1758 and 1763 and restored in 1843.
The interior paintings date back mainly to the nineteenth century and are attributed to the school of Lorenzo Ivaldi, active in Piedmont at that time.
The former church-oratory of Saints Pietro e Paolo is also interesting, built under the stables of the castle and owned by the Brotherhood of the same name (now deconsecrated).
It was built at the beginning of the eighteenth century and enlarged and altered after the middle of the same century by adding the sacristy.
After the conservative and reconstructive restoration of 2003 with European funding, following the indications of the architect Maurizio Testa, now it is the headquarters of the Multipurpose Cultural Center, inaugurated on October 22nd, 2005.
In San Marzano there are also four country churches of historical and artistic interest: Saint Antonio (in Regione Italiana), Saint Rocco (in Chierina region), Nostra Signora Annunziata (in Regione Corte) and Santa Libera (in Regione Marziano), which takes the name from a previous construction of the seventeenth century on Monte Oliveto that now no longer exists.
Among the places of worship is also worth mentioning a Methodist Church that is present since 20 September 1897.
For outdoor lovers, there is a colourful ciabot in the vineyards (the ciabots are small buildings that were once used as a shelter and garrison in the vineyard).
In 1862 the name “Oliveto” was added to the toponym of San Marzano because, according to some, the olive tree flourished in ancient times.
An exceptional frost would have destroyed most of the plants. To support this hypothesis, supported by the existence of an ancient press in the nearby Santo Stefano Belbo, we point out the olive trees that, in our day, continue to prosper, even if not numerous, in some funds.
The hypothesis of cultivation of the olive tree practised in the Middle Ages is questioned by the one that derives the toponym from “slope” (rivé).
In fact, the town stands on a hill a bit 'steep (301 meters altitude).