Tortona is located on the River Scrivia, about 20 km east of the provincial capital Alessandria. While Tortona is still on the plain, the hilly wine area of the Colli Tortonesi begins in the east. The wine region of the Colli Tortonesi extends into the Oltrepo Pavese in Lombardy. The area is also known as Little Tuscany due to its beauty. It is still a real insider tip with beautiful hiking and cycling trails through the vineyards. So far, tourists have hardly strayed into the Colli Tortonesi.
A specialty is the wine variety Timorasso, which was revived from an ancient grape. The vinyards around Monleale are cultivating this delicious grape variety.
The nearby town of Volpedo is famous for the famous painter Pelizza di Volpedo and for the peaches from Volpedo, which have a particularly good taste.
In Tortona itself, interesting tourist attractions include the church of Santa Maria Canale from the 11th century. Then there is the Tortona cathedral from the 16th century and the Bishop’s Palace. It goes on with the church of San Giacomo from the 17th century, the Capuchin church and the tower of the Tortona castle. Stroll along Via Emilia in the old city center with the Palazzo Guidobono and enjoy an ice cream. South of Tortona is the Cistercian monastery Rivalta Scrivia, built in 1180.
Castle of Tortona in the Voltone Park
The Castel of Tortona has accompanied the history of the place for over 2500 years. The settlement began on the Savo hill with the simple Ligurian “Castellier”, which was later converted into a Roman castle and then into a medieval castle. Under Vittorio Amedeo IlI in 1773 the Castel became a proud fortress. In 1801 the Castel was destroyed due to an agreement between Napoleon and the Russian tsar. There are still some parts of the wall left and the Voltone tower is a symbol of the city’s resistance.
The roman bridge
Remains of a Roman bridge were discovered during construction work in 1982. When these were uncovered in 1987, the concrete core and traces of limestone cladding made it possible to date the bridge to the 1st century BC.
Already in the 1970s, excavations from the Augustinian era (1st century BC to 1st century AD) were found during excavations. The gravestones made of sandstone blocks stood on a kind of podium.
Roman city wall
The ancient remains of the Roman city walls are on Colle Savo and come from a Roman Castel from the 1st century BC.
In the rectory of the Church of San Matteo is the enormous tomb of Emperor Maiorano. It is almost 9 by 9 m. The Emperor was murdered by Ricimero in 461.
The Archaeological Museum in the Guidobono Palace
The Palazzo Guidobono is located in the historic center in Piazza Arzano, which is in via Emilia next to the Torre Civica tower. It dates from the 15th century and was owned by the Guidobono family of Castellaro and Monleale until 1762. After various uses, the building was given a new Gothic-style facade in 1939. Today, the Tortona Archaeological Museum is housed in the Guidobono Palace.
Church of Santa Maria Canale
The Santa Maria Canale Church is Tortona’s oldest church. It dates from 1151. After numerous conversions, the once Romanesque architectural style has changed due to the introduction of Gothic elements. The current facade dates back to a restoration in 1853. Numerous paintings and frescoes are still preserved, including one from Leonardo’s school from the 16th century.
The cathedral was built between 1574 and 1592 on the grounds of the former church of San Quirino. The facade was added in 1880 by the architect Nicolò Bruno in a neoclassical style. The altar from the mid-18th century and works by famous painters are remarkable. The urn of the first bishop and patron saint of Tortona San Marziano Martyr is in the presbytery. The order of the Augustinian sisters Annunziata was once at home here. One side of the Annunziata cloister from the 16th century has been preserved.
The Bishop’s Palace is located next to the cathedral. Bishop Cesare Gambara had the palazzo built in the style of his hometown Brescia. Bishop Carlo Settala connected the palace to the cathedral in 1659. There are important paintings in the palace, including a triptych The Madonna with the Child.
Basilica of the Holy Madonna della Guardia
The most striking church in Tortona is the Santurario Nostra Signora della Guardia. The huge basilica is unmistakably in Corso Don Orione. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Guard was built in 1931 at the request of Don Orione. Don Orione had made a name for the upbringing of young people and founded the first boarding school for young people in 1893. He was canonized in 1980.
In the basilica are the death dresses of the founder Orione, who was canonized in 2004. His coffin is made of glass and can be visited in the basilica.
Abbey of Rivalta Scrivia
Rivalta Scrivia is located just south of Tortona. The Cistercian monastery was built in 1180. The church is still preserved today. Characteristic is the unique architectural style of the Cistercians with the Romanesque-Lombard and French-Gothic elements. In 1941, frescoes from the 15th century were uncovered.
The painter Pellizza da Volpedo
One of the greatest modern painters from the Tortonas area is Giuseppe Pellizza da Volpedo. Pelizza was a student of the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera in Milan, where his painting “The Living Stream” is on display in the associated art gallery Brera. As a representative of Italian realism, he mainly painted socially interesting subjects. His most famous work “Il quarto Stato” was created in his studio in Volpedo between 1898 and 1901. It is exhibited in the ‘900 Museum opened in 2010 in Milan. After the early death of his wife, the artist committed suicide at the age of 39.
His paintings can be seen in the Museum in Volpedo, the house where Pellizzas was born, in the Didactic Museum in Volpedo in Palazzo del Trehlio at piazza Quarto Stato 1, in Tortona in the medieval Palzzetto next to the Duomo and in the Pinacoteca Brera Milan. Besides, his paintings are in every Italian school book of history.
Easels are set up in the hills around Volpedo and Monleale in order to understand the paths of the master.
History of Tortona
The traces of the first settlement go back to prehistoric times. It is believed that humans are already 800 BC. had built a fortified settlement on the hill. Finds such as Ligurian ceramics point to the Iron Age in the “Castello” area. There were several settlements in the Roman era. Tortona could be the oldest Roman settlement in Piedmont. The ancient “Dertona” was founded in 148 BC. originally founded as a Ligurian city. The importance of the city arose from its strategic location. It is at the trade hub of Via Postumia (Genoa-Piacenza-Aquileia), Via Fulvia (Pollenzo-Asti-Tortona) and Via Emilia Scaura (Vado Ligure-Acqui Terme-Tortona). In Tortona, excavations of the city wall, an aqueduct and burial sites can be found from this period. Rulers and conquerors such as Friedrich Barbarossa, who razed 115 city walls and towers, the Visconti and Sforza with Ludovico il Moro, Napoleon and the Savoy played a role in Tortona’s history.
Taste the local specialties
The area around Tortona is predominantly agricultural and there are products that taste particularly good here. The typical products of the area are protected under the label “Terre del Giarolo”.
Volpedo is known for its yellow peaches. Very special fruity cherries come from Garbagna (the distinctive Piedmont cherry that has its regular place in Mon Cheri). Quality apples are grown in the Val Curone.
A very special cheese is Montebore. It can only be found in the valleys of the Grue and Borbera rivers. Montebore is a cheese made from a mixture of cow and sheep milk in the shape of a wedding cake. In fact, it is said that once a wedding cake was ordered to be made from cheese. The artisan used 3 disks of soft cheese, like a Bree from France, each with different diameters. The 3 disks where stacked on each other and created a terrace cake. The shape of a wedding cake.
For those who love salami, the “Salame Nobile del Giarolo” is a real treat. It is made from local pork under strict quality standards.
And then there is the wine. The local wine maker society defines which grapes may be cultivated. Among the white, the most famous today is the revived Timorasso. A full body white wine of an old local variety that cannot be found anywhere else. Among the reds, the most cultivated is Barbera. Every year on 10 August, the town of Monleale organizes a wine fest called Calici di Stelle (Wine glasses under the stars) where you can taste the local specialties from the many wine makers of the area.