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Pollentia: the Roman Pollenzo

   Pollen from above

The ancient Pollenzo, the Roman city of Pollentia, was mentioned by Pliny among the nobilia oppida of ancient Liguria. It was founded at the end of the 2nd century BC in the Tanaro valley (not far from the confluence with the Stura di Demonte valley) in a strategic position from the point of view of the road, being at the crossroads of important natural corridors such as the Fulvia and Aemilia Scauri. Pollentia found itself in the center of an extremely vital territory in the Augustan age: this is due to an intense rural occupation of the territory (as evidenced by numerous finds), that for the barycentric position compared to the more recent towns of Alba Pompeia (today's Alba) and Augusta Bagiennorum (located in the hamlet of Roncaglia of the current Municipality of Benevagienna). 

The Roman city extended over an area now largely occupied by the former royal estate Carloalbertina, hosting important public works such as the theater, the amphitheater, some temples and aqueducts. Today the only amphitheater is only perceptible, whose structure has been over the years exploited for the foundations of the houses of the village of Pollenzo. The buildings were arranged on the radial support walls of the cavea of ​​the Roman building around the central arena, thus giving the village a distinctive elliptical shape. It should be noted that many cellars were partially or totally constituted by the radial walls connected with barrel vaults of the Roman amphitheater. 

In 43 ac Pollentia became a foothold for the Brutus legionaries in their opposition to the army of Mark Antony, while in the first century AD some riots erupted in the city forced the emperor Tiberius to send troops imprisoning the majority citizens. 

In the 4th century AD Pollenzo was the seat of a Prefecturae Sarmatorium Gentilium, when Emperor Constantine welcomed the Sarmatians fleeing from the Goth invasion into the territory. Numerous are the finds that testify the activities of social life in ancient Pollentia: ceramics, glass, metals and coins were recovered during the excavation campaigns and now held at the Museo Civico di Storia, Arte and Archeologia of Palazzo Traversa in Bra. Pliny documents that Pollentia was famous for the production of wool and fine ceramic tableware, while the funeral inscriptions found in the necropolis recall a wine merchant (merkator vinarius) and a dyer of fabrics (purpurarius).  

In 402 dc Pollentia was the scene of a very important battle for the fate of the future European territory. After besieging the cities of Milan and Asti, roaming the entire Po valley, the troops of the Visigoths commanded by Alaric camped near Pollentia, where, on Easter, clashed with the imperial legions, in command of which was the general Stilicho. The suffered victory was the Roman troops who repulsed the Visigoth offensive by obliging Alaric to repair in Illyricum. 

The aftermath of that bloody battle marked the entire area as, like other Roman cities in the region, even the city life of Pollentia began its decline during the fifth century, when the population began to move to the surrounding hills. 

Medieval Pollenzo

If during the Lombard occupation (VII century AD) the king Rotari decided the aggregation of Pollenzo to the gastaldato of Diano, the successive barbarian and Saracen raids devastated the entire territory of Alba where Pollenzo was inserted. 

In the 1162 the lord of Bra, Nicolò de Brayda, annexed to his lands the castle of S. Giorgio, although in a few years, will be the expansionist ambitions of the Municipality of Alba to focus on the territory of Pollenzo. In 1198 the albesi decided to grant citizenship to the Pollentini with the commitment, also, to fortify the castle. Twenty years later, the Municipality of Alba purchased the rights to the monastery of S. Pietro for the sum of five hundred lire Astesi. 

It was in the 1242 that the City of Alba definitively acquired the entire territory of Pollentino even if, only three years later, de Brayda returned to seize the village by proceeding to a fortification of the defenses. The end of the disputes between Alba and Bra ended with the official recognition of the lordship of Umberto de Brayda on Pollenzo by Abbot Piero in the 1253. Even in this case, however, there was no respite for the territory of Pollentino. 

Its strategic position as a gateway between the Langhe hills and the rich plains, still made it the protagonist of the uprising of the Graffagnini, Guelph-Angevins of Alba, who occupied the city. The Municipality of Asti reacted by looting the town and giving it a part to the Municipality of Bra and another to the Municipality of Alba for the sum of two hundred lire. The latter municipality then ceded its rights to Pollenzo to Guglielmo VII of Monferrato, who undertook to rebuild the castle and the village. 

Two years later the village of Pollenzo was destroyed by astigans with the intention of never rebuilding it. In the 14th century, Pollenzo was again occupied by the braids that defended the bell tower as the only fortified spot left in that place. The abbot of Breme, Lorenzo Cane, ceded in the 1380 its rights on Pollenzo to the Visconti, lords of Milan, who gave investiture to Antonio Porro on the territories of Pollenzo and Santa Vittoria, so that, a few years later, it was he himself to rebuild the castle . 

The troubled events in Pollentia became even more complicated when the Porro broke out with the Marquis of the Monferrato an unpleasant alliance with the Visconti, to induce the Milanese to send captain Niccolò Piccinino to Pollenzo to occupy him militarily. At this point, Filippo Maria Visconti invested in Pollenzo and Santa Vittoria at Antonio Romagnano (1448) whose family, fifteen years later, made submissions to the Savoy in exchange for Duke's title. It was not two years since, in the 1450, Pollenzo became part of the lands controlled by the Sforza Milanese. With the conquest of the Duchy of Milan, in the first half of the sixteenth century, Charles V gave the Pollenzo feud to the Dukes of Savoy, who, starting with 1762, became part of the dependencies of the Savoy house. 

Pollenzo saves

   the parish church of San Vittore

The interest of the Savoia for Pollenzo was witnessed by the funding of the first excavation campaign in search of finds of Roman times, carried out between the end of the eighteenth century and the early years of the new century, by Giuseppe Franchi Pont  who also gave the prints a report of the works "Of the antiquity of Pollenza and of the ruins that remain". 

The intentions of the Savoy, and of the new King Charles Albert in particular, on Pollenzo were not limited to the valorization of an important archaeological site. In 1832 the renovation work began on the castle, the village and an area of ​​over six hundred hectares (about 1.800 Piedmont days) that also extended to Santa Vittoria, Roddi and La Morra. 

The design of the restoration of the medieval castle was entrusted to the architect  Ernest Melano, while it is significant the presence of the Bolognese artist Palagi who took care of the decorations and drawings. But, as mentioned, the overall project was not only concerned with intervening on the structures of the castle: the entire estate was the subject of important work with the construction of fourteen farmsteads, the imposing building of the agency, the tower overlooking the church square and finally, the characteristic Gothic construction of the parish church of San Vittore. 

Inside this last building he painted the Bellose, which is the representation of the martyrdom of San Vittore, and is guarded part of the extraordinary wooden choir and the staff of the Abbey of Staffarda, whose work of restoration also participated in the Moncalvo. The economic and financial center of the Pollentina estate was the Agency which, in the intentions of King Carlo Alberto, would become a model farm through which to conduct experiments for improvement in the profitability of agricultural activities. The agency building is a large "court" agricultural complex, according to the uses of the productive-livestock structure of the Po Valley. 

In the 1843, from the 9 to the 12 October, the Pollenzo agency held the "Primary general assembly of the agrarian association"To which scientists working in the experimental center participated. A little further on, on the plain at the foot of Santa Vittoria, as part of the same works, a majestic cellar was constructed that could contain tens of thousands of bottles to preserve the production of vineyards destined to produce, imitating French wicker wines , "a good quality of shampoo". This will be the beginning of the wine factories of Francesco Cinzano, a company that gave its name to the entire fraction of the Municipality of Santa Vittoria (the Cinzano factories are now owned by the British multinational UDV). 

A last notation to witness the affective attachment of the royal family to the estate of Pollenzo is with the last dramatic phases of monarchical Italy. In abdicating from the throne of the penultimate King of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele III retires to private life with the title of Conte di Pollenzo.

The Pollenzo of today

   the Unesco plaque of World Heritage

A new and important excavation campaign in search of evidence of ancient Pollentia was begun in 1958 with the coordination of Professor Edoardo Mosca and many of the finds found are now kept at the Museo Civico of Palazzo Traversa in Bra. 

An important attempt to bring new light to the Carlo-Albertina agency was possible at the start of 2000 thanks to the commitment of the Pollenzo Agency, a public-private company led by Slow Food, which has completed the restoration of the Agency and since the academic year 2004 / 2005, has started internships at the world's first university Gastronomic Sciences. In the same premises there is the first Wine Bank, a restaurant and a hotel.

In the course of these interventions, the church has been restored to the "Madonnina" deserted: its venues will host a multimedia documentation center on the Roman and Savoy period of Pollenzo. Today, Pollenzo is a historic group for the re-evocation of the atmosphere of Pollenzo Sabauda, ​​coordinated by Pro Loco "La Torre" (info: (+ 39) 0172.458284).



Pollen on paper: Pollenzo, a Roman city for a romantic "Real Resort"

Pollenzo on the net: ;