In Serralunga d’Alba, public and private life has always been entwined with wine. A fourteenth century law stated “May no man dare to cut or have someone cut the vines in the vineyards of Serralunga, with ill intent, else he be fined the sum of twenty five lira”. Twelve denari was the fine payable by anyone caught stealing grapes.
Serralunga d’Alba is a PICTURESQUE medieval village with a population of about 500, set on a splendid hill in the Langhe district, in the heart of the area where Barolo is produced, 414 m above sea level. It was initially known as Serralonga Albensium Pompeianorum and the name reflected its geographic position: the territory is made up of a strip of land measuring 7100 m long and just 1800 m wide at its widest, surrounded by hilly ridges that protect it from winds and storms. The village is DOMINATED by its imposing CASTLE, dating back to the 14th century, built between 1340 and 1350 by the Falletti family, Marquises of Barolo. The Fallettis, bankers whose fortunes were based largely on commercial activities and exchange, held a fundamental political and military position and implemented a policy of territorial installation, acquiring castles and land.
Requiring a building to house a small ARMY, and as the castles already owned by the Falletti family in the area were ideal residences but afforded little protection, Serralunga represented an excellent choice, thanks to its geographic position which guaranteed a valid defence. The position of the castle also had to allow the transmission of visual signals as part of a network with the neighbouring castles. In 1340 Pietrino Falletti came into possession of the part of the Serralunga ESTATE which had previously belonged to the Marquis of SALUZZO and commissioned the construction of the castle. We neither know the identity of the person who actually designed and built it, nor the exact year of its completion. The FORTRESS strikes visitors immediately for the slenderness and verticality of its Gothic architecture; it is characterised by two towers and is the area’s only remaining example of defensive construction. It is similar to the French “DONJON” and it may well be that it was designed and built by a French architect, given the many transalpine contacts of the Falletti family.
The outer walls are made of brick and characterised by bands and arches. There are only a few single and double lancet windows and these are positioned right at the top of the castle. The main door is made up of a simple portcullis, activated by a winch, which was closed after raising the drawbridge. The wide MOAT can no longer be seen.
Inside the castle there are some very large fireplaces and wooden ceilings, which are all that remain of the original furnishings; in the central part there are three ROOMS organised on three floors, reached by a spiral staircase inside the round TOWER. The castle has undergone very little change since it was first built and was never subject to serious attack. The roof of the square tower is flat and sloping. An EARTHQUAKE in 1771 caused the original roof to collapse and it was rebuilt in this way for ease and economy.
In 1616, the castle was conquered and later occupied by the Spaniards.
AFTER the Second World War, the “Opera Pia di Barolo”, an organisation set up by the last descendants of the Falletti family of Barolo, put the castle up for sale and it was purchased by the Italian Government, after being restored between 1950 and 1958 and added to the list of national monuments thanks to the then President of the Republic, Luigi Einaudi.
From the castle it is possible to admire a breathtaking view and the urban structure of the village, which recreates an ancient atmosphere hard to find elsewhere: the historic centre and concentric lanes built around the castle form two rings, which permitted the inhabitants to escape easily and seek REFUGE in the event of war.
The CASTLE can be reached from the lower part of the village through a door in the castle wall (the “Porta Alba” (Alba Gate), built at the same time as the castle and exactly the SAME as it was centuries ago).
Part of this wall still exists today, together with the oldest part of the village; the church on the other hand was rebuilt in the 17th century in Baroque style, while the bell tower is still the original built in the 15th century.
The village church, devoted to Saint Sebastian, houses works of art such as the Madonna and Child by the German artist Kraft Freifing, paintings depicting St. Monica and St. Sebastian, both by Kirkmaier of Turin, and the precious walnut BAS-RELIEF which depicts the Crucifix and Saints Francis of Assisi and Bernardino of Siena.