The territory of Cisterna d’Asti


Cisterna d’Asti is a village located between the Roero area, and the area so-called Colline Alfieri dell’Astigiano. Cisterna d’Asti was an important as it became a Principality under the Dal Pozzo family. It is known for its magnificent and well-kept natural landscape with fortresses on the western side and smoother hills on the east and, of course, in its wines.
In addition to Cisterna d’Asti, the most typical wine of this territory produced by Croatina grape, traditionally Nebbiolo, Arneis and Barbera grapes are also the utmost expression of this area. Who knows whether the name “Cisterna” (cistern or water tank) comes from the big cistern of the castle, as deep as the distance between the central hall and the winery vault. Perhaps yes or perhaps not, but this is for sure the most validated etymology which demonstrates at least two things: the magnificence of that work-of-art of enterprising medieval engineering and the strong link between Cisterna and its castle. “Its” castle in all senses, as this majestic building belongs to the Municipality since the Dukes of Aosta donated it in 1912. They had inherited it from their mother, Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo della Cisterna. For more than half a century, it housed the municipality and the school. It has been restored in several steps thanks to regional loans and since 80s it is the house of the Museum of ancient Arts and Crafts, a very important cultural institution and pride of its inhabitants, who put their heart and soul into it.
The castle has been in existence since 1280, but there are more ancient fortresses in the territory of Cisterna, where some place remind one of Roman life. A “Castrum Vetus” (ancient castle) rose up to dominate San Matteo valley, another one rose up in the surroundings, on Belriguardo hill, owned by large landowners who took part in the Astisio league against Asti. The Lords of Gorzano probably built the first part of the castle, and after their defeat in 1275, they sold all their properties, including Cisterna. In the last quarter of the XIV century, the Roero family, ordained by the bishop of Asti, became the owner of part of the feud. Due to the strong opposition of the other lords, the Roero family has never succeeded in getting the entire and effective ownership. However, even though they have been strongly opposed, their presence was enough to classify Cisterna as a village of the Roero territory, to which it belongs also from a morphological, landscape and agricultural. In 1476 the destiny of the feud changed, when Pope Sixtus IV entrusted his nephew, Antonio della Rovere d’Aragona. A lot of inheritances and sales succeeded in the following years, until in 1650, Francesco dal Pozzo, marquise of Voghera, came into possession of the place. Pope Clemente X raised the feud to a Principality for Francesco dal Pozzo’s son, and granted also the privilege of minting coins. Therefore until 1790 Cisterna had an active mint, a rare institution also in more important feuds.

Nowadays it is possible to visit the castle during the opening hours of the Museum of ancient Arts and Crafts and of the connected Museum of Agriculture in Piedmont, displaying documents concentrating mainly on vine cultivation. The monumental core of the village is the castle, together with the forefront parish, formerly of Saint Spirit, in baroque style dating back to the first part of Seven hundred. The ancient parish of Saints Gervasio and Protasio, whose documents date back to Two hundred, rises on a buttress on the eastern side of the village.
Cisterna d’Asti “a charming view suddenly appears on the Cisterna castle, which rules from on high, on the chain of mottled hills with shimmering greens of vineyards and peach trees”, Domi Gianoglio described the visual experience of the village, coming up from Canale in his book “Invite to the Langhe”. However we can also catch “charming views” on Cisterna castle – now and again in an intriguing game of appearances and eclipses – getting closer from the side of San Damiano or driving on other roads. The castle is doubtless the key stone of the territory, located in the place which gives the name to the wine produced from Croatina grapes and which has to deal, due also to casual reasons, with a double identity of Roero village and of the Municipality of Alfieri Hills.