|Comune di Rocca Grimalda|
|Province||Province of Alessandria (AL)|
|• Total||15.64 km2 (6.04 sq mi)|
|Elevation||280 m (920 ft)|
|Population (31 December 2006)|
|• Density||94/km2 (240/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Patron saint||James, son of Zebedee|
|Saint day||25 July|
Rocca Grimalda (Ra Roca in dialect) is a village and comune in the Province of Alessandria, Piedmont, Italy. It lies in Alto Monferrato, an historical region of Piedmont, and it was built upon a rocky hill on the Orba's left bank. It is very close to Ovada and very easy to reach through the highway and Cristoforo Colombo Airport in Genoa.
The old populations who lived here before the Romans, the so-called Ligures, left a number of traces in many places of Orba valley but especially in Rocca Grimalda: the river has always had gold in its sand and during the Roman times, a town was built in the plain under the hill in order to exploit this resource: old documents report about this centre, called Rondinaria, which was a wealthy little town in the middle of thick forests and had likely some sort of defence structure, probably on Rocca Grimalda's hill, which still dominates the whole plain around and the valley’s entrance.
Right in the plain an old necropolis was found in the 1980s but on the other side of the village’s land another high rocky hill was found to have been shaped as some sort of castle with a deep ditch and high palisades, probably from the Longobard time: the same place, called “Trionzo”, was linked with old legends of witches, dances and evil spirits.
The village’s existence was first stated in some documents of 900 and since then Rocca Grimalda changed a number of landlords while conquerors came from the see and from the plains: the powerful Republic of Genoa, the free town of Alessandria, the dukedoms of Monferrato and Milan fought for centuries in order to have the control of this strategic stronghold.
But Rocca Grimalda’s real rulers were the bandit families from the beginning of 1700 until 1800: they used the thick forests around the village to hide and rob the passers by. Rocca Grimalda got famous for its guns and long knives while no landlord managed to control them, also because they had strong support from people, traditionally against the official rulers coming from other places. During the 18th century everything changed, the forest was replaced by vineyards, only some little pieces survived as parks of noble mansions.
During the II World War many young men from the village died in war, many others run to the mountains and fought against the Fascists and the Germans occupying the country: they had to face hard defeates and massacres but they finally managed to set the region free before the arrival of the American and English Armies.
After the War many inhabitants moved to big cities like Genoa, Milan, Turin and many others in other countries and continents, looking for the wealthy that country life couldn’t give them: they abandoned their own vineyards, their little old houses in the centre of the village but not the links with their own past and relatives. A lot of them use to come back together with the new generations during summer, when the village is animated again.
From the 1990s the village is living a new renaissance, both I economy and in society, basing its own wealthy on great wines, as “Dolcetto di Ovada” and “Barbera del Monferrato”, tasty food and historical places, which attract tourists from all over the world.
Rocca Grimalda has fortunately kept its medieval dimension and structure, following the shape of the rocky hill upon which it was built. The names of some parts of the village remind of its old defence role: "Bastioni" (the bastions) "Torricella" (little tower), "Castelvero" (old castle), "Porta" (the gate) and others. The village has still only one gate, right under the Castle.
The Castle was built up in the 13th century as a military place but it was turned into a noble palace five centuries later: it has a medieval part but the visitor can feel the atmosphere of Renaissance and of 1800 in other rooms of the building. There is a high circular tower which was used as prisons for long times and its walls have still drawings and signatures by unlucky guests who lived and maybe died there during the 17th and 18th centuries..
The Parish Church, San Giacomo Maggiore, a building of Romanic origin in the centre of the village, is decorated with paintings about St. John Bapt's life. This saint was then replaced by St. James in the villagers' devotion: St. James was a very popular saint in the area because a pilgrimage road to Santiago de Compostela in Spain passed right through these lands.
Two minor churches of the 1600 and 1700 are dedicated to the Lady and the other to St. James Bapt. and are worth to be visited: they have very nice and old wooden statues which are carried through the little roads of the village once a year as a sign of popular devotion.
The oldest church in Rocca Grimalda is St. Limbania, which was built on the ruins of an old castle, in the lower part of the village: the church is dedicated to Mary’s Assumption but everybody call it St.Limbania. Inside there are nice frescos of the 15th century but other parts of the building were added later on, when the church turned into some sort of sanctuary for the muleteers who used to carry goods from the sea to the plains and back, through the mountains. They used to start their journey from a church dedicated to St. Limbania near the sea, in Genoa-Voltri, and they stopped in Rocca Grimalda's church, in order to be sure of St.Limbania's protection through the dangerous journey through the mountains.
Rocca Grimalda’s inhabitants generally have a haughty nature, which is probably due to the violent history of this community from its very beginning and their geographical isolation gave them quite a close behaviour but allowed them to keep on traditions more than in many other places as well as a distinctive dialect which differs even from the one spoken in its closest country surroundings.
First of all the primordial dance of “Lachera”, which is performed every year during Carnival time, with features of foundation and propitiatory spring rite. Lachera is nowadays regarded as one of the most important and original carnivals in Europe.
Lachera is performed in carnival time in its most complete form, with a wedding train through the countryside and 5 day of dances, songs, wine and great food, until it reaches the village and the rite itself is completely performed. Lachera is often exported in other regions and countries, like Belgium, Austria, France, Germany. For more information you can look at the official website of the association Lachera di Rocca Grimalda
With the same confidence the villagers defend also an old and tasty recipe of theirs, Peirbuieira, which is served every year the last week of August in a festival when people from all Italy use to come and invade the little village in order to taste it.