Tonco protagonist: from the Pitu ancient carousel to the smallest sanctuary in Italy.


Tonco was born on a hill of Low Monferrato, in the northern part of the Asti region, as a village of Lombard origin.

The town, predominantly agricultural, spread over an area of 11.78 km² and has a population of about 850 units.


The name.

On the name of the village, there are various versions reported by scholars.

The origin of the name is probably Germanic and derives from the personal Toto, -onisda whose Totonicus

According to some, the primitive spelling was Todenco or Tudenco, then turned into Tonco or Tunco (proof is the fact that in 1074 Gerardo da Tonco in the notary deed of donating part of his lands for the departure to the Crusades is expressly named as Gerardus de Gerardis de Tunco).

According to others (supported by subsequent written documents) the origin of the name Tonco is much older and appears for the first time on a document in 1193 as Tongum, then followed in 1348 with the name of Toongus.

These documents clearly demonstrate that the name Tonco, in its variants, has certainly existed since the year 1000 and therefore the tradition in which it is said that the name of Tonco was originally Villa Belforte then changed to Tonco in 1420, when it became a fief of the Marquis Guglielmo da Tonco, is to be denied also because the branch of the Lords of Tonco extinguished in 1395.

It should also be remembered that the dialect name Tunc is certainly linked as a way of pronunciation to the Nordic languages (Germanic or Longobarda) and that all the subsequent transcriptions have been “Latinized” losing part of the link with the original term.


Of ancient prehistoric origins, almost nothing is known, but probably there were originally settlements of the Ligurians and the Gauls, after which the Romans and then the populations of the north were integrated and superimposed during the barbarian invasions.

The first feudatories of the place were the Lords of Tonco. To the “di Tonco” belonged the Noble Gerardo who during the first crusade founded a hospital for pilgrims in the Holy Land giving the same the rules then approved in 1113 by Pope Pasquale II. Subsequently, the institution became the Sovereign Military Order of the Knights of Malta.

Other sources document that the village soon became part of the domains of the Marquis of Monferrato as an important defense against the Municipality of Asti, then passed to the Turco family and subsequently to the Natta family.

Significant dates:

1074 - On 2 November Gerardo di Tonco donates part of his possessions to the church of Saint Nazario in Meyrano (Montechiaro d'Asti) to pay the costs of departure to the Holy Land.

1164 - On 5 October Federico I of Monferrato invests his brother-in-law William IV of Monferrato with a diploma as Lord of Tonco and Vassallo.

1292 - The City of Asti defeated Marquis William IV and occupied the village that was reconquered after about two years by the Marquis Giovanni I.

1387 - On February 19 Teodoro Paleologo invests Tonco to Oliviero Turco of Asti.

1435 - On March 27th the feud passed to Enrietto Natta, councilor of Filippo Maria Visconti who later passed to the service of the Marquis of Monferrato of which he was ambassador and chancellor.

1617 - During the war of succession of Monferrato, the town of Tonco was looted and set on fire by French-Piedmontese troops.

Today, traces of the Castle remained almost inexistent while the traces of the defensive walls of the village and the castle can still be identified, incorporated in some buildings.

1684 - On April 6th Giacomo Natta gained the title of Marquis.

1796 - The Natta di Tonco branch dies out with the death of the Marquis Giacomo Piero Antonio on May 5th in Novara.


In Piazza Lanfranco, there is the Unione Monferrato Valleversa, established on 30 November 2000.

Food and wine and typical products.

In memory of the figure of Gerardo di Tonco is celebrated every year, in November, the Gerardo Great Bagna Cauda (La Grandiosa Bagna Cauda di Gerardo) starring the typical dish of Monferrato.

Another key event of the territory is the Pitu Ancient Carousel (Antica Giostra del Pitu), an ancient popular ritual that features a turkey (fake), used as a scapegoat to defeat the evils that ravage the town.

To be seen.

Tonco is also a popular destination for historical itineraries: to see the majestic parish church dedicated to Saints Maria Assunta e Giuseppe, in late Baroque style with characteristic pointed bell tower, the Church of Saint Giovanni Evangelista, which preserves inside a valuable confessional of the Baroque period, the Sanctuary of Maria Ausiliatrice, built in 1922, famous for its size: it is the smallest sanctuary in Italy.

The streets of the historic center are also characterized by the succession of ancient gates of fine workmanship, which open onto the courtyards of the oldest farms in the town.

Villa Toso, an impressive eighteenth-century building, is the center of events, association life, and schools; among the prestigious buildings, in the southernmost area of the town, we note Palazzo Mensio, now privately owned.Tonco also offers interesting naturalistic insights with the fascinating panoramic roads that lead to Alfiano Natta and Stazione hamlet, the recent discovery of a Bialbero in Cascina Piane and “La Tunchina” Giant Bench.


In the Pitu Ancient Carousel, until 2009, a real turkey was used, bought in butchery and therefore already destined for slaughter; since 2015 a simulacrum (puppet made of fabric) is used instead.