Villanova castle - Cassolnovo

The castle located in the hamlet of Villanova, dating back to the 14th century, was the country residence of the Sforza dukes, who experimented there for the first time with the cultivation of rice in Lomellina.

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A booklet from 1968 dedicated to the fourth centenary of the birth of San Luigi Gonzaga, written by don Ernesto Colli, reads as follows:
“The great peace of the countryside, the magic of a sea of golden wheat, the fairytale landscape of a monumental manor gives visitors a view of ancient and patriarchal wisdom”.

The manor the Piedmontese historian is referring to is the Villanova castle, in the valley of the Terdoppio, in a land rich and fertile on the border between Piedmont and Lombardia. The waters of the canals and fountains hailing from the Sesia, Terdoppio and Ticino rivers render this land rich in water meadows and rice fields.

In 1475, five bags of rice called “white gold” were sent from this castle to the duke of Ferrara, so that he could get to know the new source of wealth experimented in the boggy lands of Villanova at the request of the Duke of Milan, Galeazzo Maria Sforza.

Villanova was often mentioned in the epistolaries of the Milanese lords who loved spending periods of rest and leisure in Vigevano and in Lomellina. A picturesque place for ducal hunting parties, as the duchess Beatrice d’Este describes to her sister Isabella d’Este, Marquise of Mantua, in a letter referenced by Daniela Pizzagalli in her novel “La dama con l’ermellino” in 2000.

“I’m here in Villanova, where the beauty of the countryside and the sweetness of the air is so temperate and splendid that it could be compared to that of the month of May (she wrote in March) . Every day I ride my horse accompanied by dogs and hawks and we never return home, his Lordship my husband and I, without having experienced the infinite pleasures of hunting herons and local birds”.

A wholesome and marvelous land which has housed for centuries monks who have reclaimed it, as well as noble families who have made it fertile and have turned it into a noble mansion.

Villanova preserves the castle, nowadays private property, which has interesting architectural features of the XV century. Eminent vestiges are flanked by the hard work of the people who still grow rice in this territory to this day.

In the parish Church of San Martino, ancient chapel of the Vallombrosana Abbey, we can admire a painting by Saint Luigi Gonzaga, a gift from the young saint’s mother in 1652. Luigi Gonzaga, while traveling towards Casale Monferrato which was governed by his family, was saved from a dangerous accident by some fishermen in the ancient river port of Cassolo Vecchio sul Ticino. Luigi stayed many times in Villanova, which was under his noble family’s control starting from the XVI century, after the marriage of Olimpia Sforza, daughter of the Marquis of Caravaggio, and Ferdinando Gonzaga, prince of Castiglione, Luigi’s father.


The association Vigevano Promotions organizes half-day or full day customized itineraries to guide the groups of visitors in the discovery of the stories and legends inside of them.
For information about the guided tours:
tel: +39 351 8782734
e-mail: info@vigevanopromotions.it

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