THE ORIGINS OF ZUCCARELLO
Val Pennavaira and Neva valleys gave up finds which prove building continuity from the prehistoric and Roman ages, but the first information on those housing units which later became part of the important Marquisate of Zuccarello goes back to the 13th century.
Between the Roman and Late Middle Ages, this territory held some importance, in particular after the Byzantine occupation because it was very probably in the area that is believed to have coincided with the Limes, the mysterious watershed between the Byzantine and Lombard territories, and of which we still do not know the precise location.
With the Lombard conquest, which took place gradually and was finished by the Rothari in 643, the events of this area, excluding Albenga, remained in the dark until establishment of the three border districts by Berengar II in 952. After this the region became part of the Albenga Committee in the Arduinica Border District.
This territorial reorganization had importantconsequences for the history of Savona. The first was undoubtedly the elimination of the Saracen threat in 972, a benefit for even the small villages because finally protected by a central and stronger power. The second was therebirth of the Albenga Committee which, returning to the Countess of Susa’s dominion, increased its own relationship with Piedmont, improving commercial opportunities across the Alps and Tanaro Valley.
When the Countess died, Bonifacio, the Marquis of Clavesana, became an influent and powerful figure in this territory, starting the endless fight between the feudal forces and Albenga’s desire for independence.
The date of the foundation of Zuccarello castle is not known, but we do know that it was built after Castelvecchio, a castle located 7 kilometres to the north, and around 15 years before the village arose in 1248. The reasons for its construction go back to the period in which the Clavesana family, after taking possession of the Albenga coast and plain, had to think about how to defend the Marquisate in the southern part of the valley, creating a connection with Castelvecchio which had the same function.
The events of the castle are not those of an independent fief, in fact they are completely absorbed by the fight between its own feudatories and the Marquise of Ceva, that is Giorgio il Nano, who was allied to Albenga. The castle, passing to the Del Carretto family during the first half of the 14th century, was probably initially used as their residence to be replaced by Castelvecchio.
In the 16th century, the Del Carretto control was in decline because of the hereditary disputes within the family, which ended with the sale in 1567 of a third of the fief to the Republic of Genoa which then completed the purchase between 1624 and 1633.
The Savoy family, along with their allies the French, did not like this acquisition and started the so-called Zuccarello war, which ended in 1631 with the Genoese victory. From this moment onwards the castle was used exclusively for military purposes, such as during the Austrian War of Succession, during which the caste was besieged and invaded by the Piedmonts in spite of the courageous defence of the village inhabitants.
The Zuccarello castle gives us an opportunity to become familiar with how a Renaissance castle was furnished, because we can use two lists relating to castle furnishings as a reference. One is dated 1567, the other 1617. The first list was written in 1567, as a result of contrasts in the Carretta family, when Genoa occupied the castle and installed a lord of the castle with some soldiers for its garrison. The second list is mainly to help understand the decline that the castle was going through at just 50 years from the first appraisal and gives only a list of the weapons put inside by Genoa to ensure at least the military garrison.
The first list contains 12 rooms, but we don’t know if this was the total number of rooms in the castle because the commissioner could have excluded the empty rooms from their appraisal, being interested only in personal property. To understand the furnishings of a Renaissance castle, you have to reflect on the temporary use of the rooms as a distinctive element of the Renaissance house. Every room could have been used as a kitchen or a bedroom, depending on what was placed inside it.
There were not many pieces from the Renaissance and the Late Middle Ages, because during the 15th century, the life of a castle was busy because of military operations, with sudden escapes and departures, and they had to be simple and easily transferrable to other places. A chest (better known as a strong box) was the most popular object in a castle because it could be moved from one room to another and used as a container or bed in case of need.
ILARIA DEL CARRETTO
At the entrance of Zuccarello there is astatue of Ilaria Del Carretto, which was placed there in 2007. Maybe you have never heard of her, or you know about her more for her reputation in the history of art. But who was Ilaria Del Carretto?
Her father was Carlo I Del Carretto, Enrico II’s brother and the first Marquise Del Carretto of Zuccarello from 1397. Thanks to her father the marquisate quickly extended his territory, adding first Balestrino castle and the Castelvecchio, Erli and Nasino fiefs, and then Castelbianco, Alto Caprauna and Bardineto.Ilaria was born in 1379 and strangely, she went down in history more because of her death than her actions in life. She was in fact very young when she married the Prince of Lucca Pietro Guinigi, and had two children before dying in 1405.
Owing to this loss, her husband commissioned the artist Jacopo Della Quercia to create her burial monument. So beautiful was its workmanship that every year it attracts tourists from all over the world to the Dome of Lucca. At that time, this work of art also had a political function because it was the symbol of Guinigi’s power. Thanks to it, the city of Lucca was reminded of the continuation of his dynasty through Ladislao, born from Ilaria and her husband.
After centuries of anonymity, Ilaria Del Carretto has recently made a comeback. On 17th December 2012 an article in the daily newspaper Il Corriere della Sera disclosed themystery regarding Ilaria’s remains which had not been placed inside the famous sarcophagus but in the Church of Santa Lucia in Lucca, together with Pietro Guinigi’s other two wives.