If there is a village where vine monoculture has deeply marked the region, this is Castel Rocchero.
The road connecting to Nizza and Castel Boglione displays geometric patterns made up of uninterrupted rows that extend as far as the eye can see, following the gentle slopes of the hills and creating striking chromatic effects.
This is the land of Barbera , Moscato , Brachetto, and Dolcetto with dozens of farms, many of which sell their grapes to the big Cantina Sociale (cooperative winery) which dominates with its imposing and scenic structure at the top of the road descending towards Acqui.
Like most of the villages in the Asti region, Castel Rocchero owes its origin to a military garrison set up to guard and defend the road connecting Acqui to the Belbo valley.
Already in use in Roman times and never fallen into disuse even in the dark ages of the barbarian invasions, the road was easily controlled from the castle (castrum), which stood on the highest and steepest point (ruché: cliff, crag) of the hill.
The first historical records date back to 967, when the village was part of Aleramo ‘s possessions along with numerous other villages and manses comprised between the Tanaro river and the Orba stream, whose jurisdiction was given by Emperor Otto to this vassal who became the founder of the glorious dynasty of the Marquis of Montferrat
His successors, with various vicissitudes, were able to carve out a leading role in the political and military scene of medieval Italy and the fortress of Castel Rocchero itself became strategically important to the extent that the various rulers of southern Piedmont engaged in disputes and battles for its control.
In 1310 the Marquis Bonifacio of Incisa finally managed to bring Castel Rocchero under his rule, following the imperial investiture he received in Asti.
The fifteenth century saw on one hand, the entrenchment of local potentates – such as the Dagna Acqui who obtained the right to collect tolls – and, on the other hand the consolidation of the authority of the Marquis of Montferrat, whom in 1435 received confirmation of his fief by Ludovico of Savoy.
Meanwhile, the population engaged in a violent feud with Acqui for the use of forests.
The situation degenerated into real armed fights between residents of Castel Rocchero, with their allies from Castelvero, Ricaldone, Alice and Montabone and the forest owners from Acqui.
As the raids could not be stopped neither by the edicts issued by the marquis nor corporal punishments, the Acqui inhabitants finally reacted ravaging and burning the houses of Castel Rocchero in 1495.
It was only in 1635 that Federico Aldobrandino of San Giorgio was able to bring all the domain under his rule, including the castle, but the Sburlatis kept their farms and continued to collect tolls until 1708 and beyond. On 7 July 1714 half of the castle was once again sold to Francesco Beltrambi, enfeoffed by the Duke of Mantua.
The Beltrambi family retained power even after the end of the Marquis of Montferrat and the unification of Piedmont under the Savoy and it was only in 1833 that they were replaced by the counts Blesi, an ancient family from Acqui, renowned for their characteristic silver coat of arms bearing a knotty stick in the centre.
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