In Lower Monferrato, a land already famed since Roman times for its fertility, in the province of Asti, stands the town of Grazzano Badoglio.
Hills, towers and churches preserve a special charm where legend and history combine, separated by only a very slim line.
Travelling upwards along steep and tortuous narrow roads the Church of Saints Vittore and Corona (1581), built on the foundations of an old Abbey, where the remains of Aleramo, Marquis of Monferrato, are buried.
The origin of the name “Monferrato” is attributed, according to poetic legend, to Aleramo himself, born in the year 904, to a noble Viking couple; he was raised, after the death of his parents, in Sezzé (Sezzadio) by a noble of the area; he grew strong and sturdy and, nominated squire, he enrolled alongside the emperor Ottone I who laid siege upon the city of Brescia. In love with Alasia, the emperor’s daughter, he eloped with her, against the wishes of her father and sought refuge in Albenga where he took up the profession of coal merchant. Unable to bear the merchant profession he took up arms again alongside his son and they fought together, incognito, with great valour for the emperor who, when he discovered the Aleramo’s identity, immediately forgave him and nominated him Marquis and sire of as much land as he could manage to circumscribe on horseback in three days and three nights. It was the year 967 and the cavalier, before the horse ride, according to legend, shod his own horse using a brick (mùn in the local dialect). And for this reason, again according to legend, that the territory between the River Po and the Langhe hills came to be called Monferrato, that is “mùn frà” (shod with a brick).
Aleramo is believed to have died in 969 and his remains were transferred in 1581 to the parish church of Grazzano Badoglio.
It may be that the story of Aleramo is only a legend, but, even in history, Grazzano was famed because in 961 a great Abbey was built, as witnessed by a document signed that year by Emperor Ottone I.
Monferrato, the male line of Aleramo having died out in 1305, passed under the dominion first of Teodoro Paleologo, then the Gonzaga family; in 1612 Carlo Emanuele of Savoy asserted his rights on the territory of Monferrato, which became a theatre to ferocious conflict with the intervention also of France and Spain, and finally in 1708 Vittorio Amedeo II, Duke of Savoy, received official possession of Monferrato, and Grazzano followed the destiny of the Piedmont royal house of Savoy.
In 1871 Grazzano became the birthplace of Marshal of Italy, Pietro Badoglio, in memory of whom it preserves the name, and his home, transformed into a museum, holds relics of the Second World War.