Peschi: Archivio fotografico Alexala - Foto Massimiliano Navarria Alessandria Travel Guide
Alessandria, chief town of Province, is situated in the south-oriental shred of the Piedmonte, at the confluence of the rivers Bormida and Tanaro and is in the centre of the firm triangle composed by Milan, Turin and Genoa. It is land of castles, villas and ancient noble abodes.
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THE STORY - The date of foundation goes back to 1168, when the inhabitants of the villages of Rovereto, Marengo, Bergoglio, Gamondio, Solero, Foro, Oviglio and Quargnento was reunited to build a town called Alessandria in homage of Pope Alexander III.
In the 1171 the new town was integrant share of the guelph drawing up and the emperor Federico I Barbarossa, in his fifth invasion in Italy, encircled it of siege for various months between the 1174 and 1175, before to allowed it a truce. In the 1183 Alessandria had a official recognition, but had to accept, with the imperial power, the imposition of tolls and gratuities and the new name of "Casarea".
Big importance in the life of Alessandria during the medieval epoch recovered the presence of the religious movement of the Umiliati that, begin from XII century had an important role in the development of the activity of working of the wool (in Lumelli road n.13/17 and still visitable the Tinaio degli Umiliati, that remainder of the imposing monastic structure of the Umiliati of San Giovanni del Cappuccio, one of the alessandrini center of the order. The underground room, recently restored, entertained one of the monastic workrooms).
During the thirteenth century Alessandria engaged in a number of wars originated by territorial disputes with the marquis of Monferrato and the city of Asti, and experienced a period of civil strife between Guelph and Ghibelline families. The establishment of a Chamber of the Elders and a Council of Sages strenghtened the city's internal political structures; meanwhile, the rising bourgeoisie of artisans and craftmen consolidated its power at the expense of the feudal nobility. Towards the end of the thirteenth century Alessandria was subjected to Charles of Anjou and, later, to Guglielmo VII of Monferrato; in 1316, finally, the leaders of the Guelph and Ghibelline factions submitted to Matteo Visconti, conferring to the powerful Milanese family the seigniory of their city. Under the rule of the Visconti, Alessandria reorganized its political and economical institutions, but became involved in the antagonism between the Milanese dukes and the major Italian and European powers of the time: 1391 two citizens of Alessandria, Iacopo dal Verme to victory over the French troops of Kings Charles VI; in memory of the victory over the troops of earl of Armagnac on July 25 1391, day of Saint James was erected the Curch of Saint James of the Victory, placed in the homonymous street.
In 1404 Alessandria was invaded by the military commander Facino Cane from Casale, who got hold of a significant part of the Visconti's possessions. Only after Facino's death the Milanese family could regain its territories by arranging a wedding between Filippo Maria Visconti and the widow of Facino, Beatrice di Tenda. After the death of Filippo Maria in 1477, the seigniory of the Visconti came to a close, and Alessandria passed under the rule of Francesco Sforza. Towards the end of the fourteenth century, the decline of the Sforza seigniory was accompanied by a bloody upsurge in warfare: Alessandria was sacked by French troops in 1499, occupied by the army of Massimiliano Sforza in 1512, and again invaded by the French in 1522. Caught up in the wars between France and Spain, in 1525 Alessandria became part of Charles V's empire (only spanish building left in Alessandria, this church was built by Governor Matheo de Otanez: in the niche overlooking the entrance is deforated by a fresco of the Madonna di Monserrato; the black Madonna over the shrine is the work of a seventeenth-century Spanish artist). The political framework of the Spanish government remained in force up to the end of the seventeenth century; meanwhile, Alessandria acquired growing importance both as the fulcrum of interchange among the cities of Genoa, Tortona and Pavia, and as a military stronghold. During the eighteenth century Alessandria became an important stronghold for the defence of Monferrato. The Savoy kings designed an impressive system of fortifications, which required the demolition of the ancient district of Bergoglio and the construction of a powerful hexagonal Citadel designed by Ignazio Bertola: the Citadel, with its massive stra-shape strucutre is an outstanding example of European eighteenth-century military architecture. After the demolition of the ancient district of Bergoglio, the construction of the new fortress began in 1728 and continued in the second half of the century. In 1821, the Citadel was one of the cardinal pints of the liberal insurrection. On the other hand, the new fortifications played an important role in eighteenth-century warfare, and in particular during the Austrian was of succession, when the House of Savoy entered into an alliance with the Austrians in order to oppose the French-Spanish supremacy. Thanks to a number of administrative and political reforms, the House of Savoy was able to exercise safer and more rational control over the territory: local governments were given new rules, and new authorities such as a land registry office and a Royal Council of Justice were established. The second half of the eighteenth century was a period of crucial changes in Alessandria's urban plan, thanks to the construction of new government buildings such as the town hall, the Civic Theatre, the trade fair halls and the Hospital complex; the city's religious architecture (Church of Saint Alexander and Saint Charles, the Church of Saint Giovannino) underwent significant changes as well.
At the hub of a wide network of trade routes between the regions of Lombardy and Liguria, Alessandria flourished and expanded: its population grew remarkably over the previous century, reaching 15.000 people.
After being defeated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1796, Vittorio Amedeo III signed the armistice of Cherasco and ceded to the French part of his territories: Savoy, the city of Nice, and the fortresses of Cuneo, Tortona, and Alessandria; Bonaparte returned after the Battle of Marengo (at which the city has dedicated an Museum) but the fifteen years later of french government ended in 1814 when the city was seized by the Austrian army.
The industrialization of Alessandria, now become a provincial capital, began in the 1870s, shortly after the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy, and dominated the city's economic life up to the end of the nineteenth century.
The hat factory owned by Giuseppe Borsalino quickly became the leading concern: the number of its employees roe to 2.000 in 1910.
In the last two decades of the nineteenth century Alessandria underwent a significant recustructing of its urban plan, under the direction of Ludovico Straneo: as the city expanded weswards, crumbling neighbourdhoods were knocked down, the ancient walls were dismantled, the network of main road was greatly developed; of this period the realization of Garibaldi square, an wide spectacular space between the town and the railway station gardens.
The ancient mediaeval town plan, extensively transformed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, was modified further in the twentieth century. The damage caused by bombings during the second World War transformed some parts of the city. During the post-war period, Alessandria expanded with the construction of new residential districts: of the twentieth century are segnaled the Dispensary for Tubercolosis Prevention, designed by Ignazio Gardella and built between 1936 and 1938, one of the most original works of Italian contemporary architecture, the House of the Employees of the Borsalino, work of the architecture of the fifties and the Main Post Office, an example of razionalism of the use of "autarkic" materials; the facade is decorated with mosaics of Gino Severini that show the evolution of the post and telegraph; indoors, the former writing room is decorated by a wall painting by Giulio Rosso.
THE HISTORIC AND ARCHEOLOGIC PATRIMONY - In years long gone by, before even the Roman achieved their dominance, the history of the Province of Alessandria began. If the evidence uncovered by the excavations undertaken in the Curone valley and at Tortona, two of the five important archaeological sites in the Province, bears witness to human activity going back to pre-Roman times even to the Bronze Age, it is, however, with the Romans, that the urban and economic development of the Alessandria area really got underway.
Parts of the Via Fulvia at Villa del Foro, near by Alessandria, the excavations at Libarna at Serravalle Scrivia, so like the reperts of Acqui Terme, showing the level of urban development carried out by the Romans and illustrating the strategic importance of the region.
Besides the military history of the region outlined above,the religious importance of the area is equally interesting. From medieval times countless pilgrims from all over Europe crossed the Province of Alessandria along the via Francigena as they made their way to Rome or the Holy Land. More are the religious structures of this epoch and outlived at the centuries: the Sinangoga degli Argenti with the Museum of Art and Jewish Story and the Museo dei Lumi; the Abbey of Rivalta Scrivia at Tortona, the Birth House and the Museum of Saint Paul of the Cross at Ovada.
Land of boundary, crossed for centuries by armies, merchants and pilgrims, the province of Alessandria has kept intact visible signs of its story. At remember of a stormy past, did of conquests and invasions, in every village is possible to admire massive walls, towers. The castles of the territory are numerous: fifty four castles that open the weighing wings to reveal at the visitors secrets and the legends between the spring and the autumn in occasion of the manifestation "Open Castles".
NATURE, SPORT AND WELL - BEING - The valleys of Alessandria are characterized from a varied and uncontaminated vegetation and home to many different species of animals.
Among the hundreds of plant species you can find that rarest of wild orchids, the "Scarpetta of Venere", and other types of the same family and besides a huge variety of mushrooms: porcino, columbine, ovuli, prataioli and mazze da tamburo; The most sought-after treasure of the wood is the white truffle, well-known for its exceptional quality.
Are disappeared the bear, the linx and the wolf, are still plenty of goodsize wild animals also of big dimensions: martens, weasels, pine martens, polecats, foxes, badgers, hedghogs, hares, squirrels, dormice, moles, field mice, roe deer, fallow deer and wild boar.
The climate is predictably continental with wide tempearature ranges between the seasons, dependent obviously on the mountain range and the distance from the sea.
The valleys retain to this day rhythms and atmosphere of the genuine peasant life developed, luckily, with complete respect for tradition; nature lovers, besides the Capanne of Marcarolo Nature Park, will discover well-signed footpaths that plunge deep into the very heart of nature; the streams, amongst the cleanest and clearest in the region can be enjoyed, by those who wish to take a dip, in the utmost security. Between the practicable sports in the valleys there are: sporty fishing, mushrooms collect, horse riding, cycling, orienteering, mountain bike, down hill, besides, in this province between the hills and the sea are built 5 golf courses for the creation of a circuit that attracts the players of golf from every place.
On the tracks of the ancient roman town hall of Aquae Statellae today rises Acqui Terme, city from centuries well-known for the theraupetic and salutary waters that have rendered it one of the most famous thermal centres of the peninsula. In the heart of the town, in a small and pleasant square, rises the famous "Bollente", a fountain from which gush out every minut 560 litres of waters at 75°C: destination of those people who wish to refresh their bodies and their minds as people have been doing since the time of the Romans. It was in fact the Romans who discovered the hot water springs, thereafter building swimmingpools and spa buildings and thereby giving life to what had been a collection of houses.And today, when medicine has made suc giant strides forward, the special properties of the spa water, with its essential elements of salt, bromine, iodine and sulphur and which is used in the production of the health-giving mud treatments, is much valued both for health and beauty treatments.
ENOGASTRONOMY - The province of Alessandria is fruitful landespecially as far as food is concerned. The gastonomic treasures of the area have created a rich and authentic cuisine in wich flavours and aromas wich were long-forgotten can be rediscoverede and where there is always the opportunity to experiment with the excellent quality of the area. For gourmets, autumn provides more than one opportunity to become inebriated by the heady smells of mushrooms and truffles and during October and November there is a succession of fairs celebrating that "king" of foods, the truffle. The province of Alessandria is important for the production of wines and is a source of pride for the whole of Piedmont. Rare wines are produced (Carica l'asino and Timorasso) as well as 37 D.O.C. and D.O.C.G. wines between that remember the Barbera, the Dolcetto, the Grignolino, the Cortese, the Moscato Bianco and the Brachetto. The culinary traditions of the zones of Alessandria and Casale are originally from Monferrato. Agnolotti in stew, Marengo chicken, mixed stewed meats, the traditional "Bagna Cauda" (at base of cooked and raw vegetables, served with a sauce of anchovies, butter and garlic), focaccia, bread and grissini, risotto and cheeses from the unforgattable taste; each countries has its own particular sweet speciality, the recipes are secrets which have been passed down through the numerous master bakers: baci di dama. canestrelli, amaretti, polentine of Marengo, Krumiri (traditional biscuits with shape of "V" in honour of the moustache of Vittorio Emanuele II)

Texts at care of the Assessorship at the Goods, Cultural Activity and Tourism of the City of Alessandria and of the Agency of Reception and Local Tourist Promotion of the Province of Alessandria.

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