A bit of history

Last update 3 January 2021

The place name Sala Monferrato is very likely Lombardic. It may also originate from the ancient name of a storage unit , “A Sala”, right within the ancient fortified village. Its majestic main door is still visible nowadays. It once stood as a defense post that has turned into a neo-gothic palace over the centuries.

Count Gisalberto is the first Lord known to historians to have ruled Sala. He started ruling in 901 in the village and over the neighboring territories. Frederic I Barbarossa the Holy Roman Emperor then granted the estate to William IV of the Aleramici Dynasty.

Later on, while the then marquisate of Monferrato was being handed out to the Oriental Paleologi Dynasty, Guglielmo Bava di Grazzano was granted control over Sala in 1369. From then on, his descendants went by the name of “Della Sala”. The last heiress, Bartolomea della Sala Monferrato married Emilio Bellone and handed over the village to him  as a dowry. Their descendant Carlo Costantino Bellone sold the estate to Giovanni Ercole Nicola Barbotti from Casale Monferrato in 1761.

The Piacentinis were Sala Monferrato last lords, as Evasio Piacentini married Barbotti’s sister.

In the Middle ages Sala hosted a Benedictine monastery in what is now Cascina Narzo, one of the village wine farms. The public wood oven to cook homemade bread had been active for centuries since the 1500s. Located by the church and in the center of the village, it  has now been restored and turned into a permanent historical archive. Here we can still browse through the original orders for the Malvasia wine by the Gonzaga court. The Malvasia from Sala had been selected as the ideal one for the Gonzaga table and the requests read “the wine must always be sweet and perfect”.

The Germanic armies  lead by Eugenio di Savoia invaded Sala in 1691 in a period of raging succession wars opposing Spain, France and Austria. During the conflicts, Commander Carlo Antonio De Franceschi of the Municipal army was shot to death in combat.

In the last century, Lieutenant Colonel Tommaso de Cristoforis used to spend his free time in his father’s mansion in Sala. Lieutenant Colonel de Cristoforis then died with five hundred other men in Dogali, Abissinia ( now Ethiopia)  in World War Two. A plaque on the front of the municipal building commemorates him and his army.

The Two World Wars claimed a heavy human toll on Sala. Twenty- three casualties in World War One and twelve in World War Two, five of which forever unaccounted for.  During the Resistance period Dea Rota from Sala was a skilled go-between for the then clandestine partisan militias trying to set Italy free from fascism. Renowned writer Beppe Fenoglio mentioned her in the first draft of his novel “Il Partigiano Johnny” ( Johnny the Resistance fighter).

More recently, important personalities have chosen Sala as  a secondary residence or to spend the last period of their lives. It has been the case of Nanni Ricordi, (1932-2012) the first ever producer in musical history behind the singer and songwriters, brand new artists on the musical scene soon to become household names in Italy: Giorgio Gaber, Enzo Jannacci, Paolo Conte, Fabrizio de André, Gino Paoli, Ornella Vanoni.

At present, Giorgio Tonti, a renowned painter and graphic art expert lives and works in Sala.