Cittadella of Alessandria

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Cittadella of Alessandria
Cittadella Militare di Alessandria
Alessandria, Italy
Cittadella Militare.jpg
Aerial view of the Citadel.
La Cittadella di Alessandria 01.JPG
Inside the fortress one of the Armory
Cittadella of Alessandria is located in Italy
Cittadella of Alessandria
Cittadella of Alessandria
Coordinates 44°55′15″N 8°36′25″E / 44.920714°N 8.607028°E / 44.920714; 8.607028
Site information
Owner Italian Public Property Agency
Controlled by Italian Republic
Open to
the public
Condition Good
Site history
Built 1732 (1732)
Built by Ignazio Bertola
In use 18th century - 20th century
Materials Stone
Battles/wars War of the Austrian Succession
First Italian Campaign
Second World War
Garrison information
Garrison Savoie flag.svg Kingdom of Sardinia Army
Austrian Army of Italy
Army of Italy (France)
Flag of Italy (1860).svg Regio Esercito
Coat of arms of the Esercito Italiano (1991-2014).svg Italian Army
Ravena div collar insignia.jpg 3rd Mountain Inf. Div. Ravenna[1]
Occupants Museum Historical Italian Military Uniforms (1848 - 1946)

The Cittadella of Alessandria is a citadel in the city of Alessandria, Italy. It is one of the best preserved 18th century permanent fortifications in Europe and one of the few still existing. It is one of the few European fortress still inserted in its original environment: there isn't a screen of homes that closes the view of the ramparts, or a heavy traffic road that surrounds the ditches.

For the first time in the history of Italy on March 10, 1821, the tricolore was raised on the bastions of the citadel by Colonel Ansaldi, during the Piedmont insurrection.[2][3] Since 2006, the Citadel (formerly National Monument) is included in the "Tentative List" for the application to the World Heritage UNESCO.


The fortress lies across the river Tanaro in the north-west side of the city of Alessandria. The site is one of the lowest in the Piedmont region with an altitude of about 90 metres (300 ft) above sea-level.


Social, historical and geopolitical context[edit]

Map of Europe according to the Treaty of Utrecht

Since its foundation, 1168, the town of Alessandria was always meant to be a border town with a strategic-military vocation. From the 14th century has joined the Visconti of Milan against Monferrato and Asti, with the Sforza then in the 15th century, and consequently under the Spaniards rule after, throughout the 17th century.

The construction of the fortress began immediately after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. The treaty handed ownership of the Citadel from the Spaniards to the House of Savoy. A massive fortification project followed, during which much of Alessandria's town-planning were changed to bolster the fortress's defenses.

In order to meet the needs of defense of the new state of Savoy, it was decided to build a massive fortress designed to function as a barrier of military transits traveling along the "Road of Flanders", the ancient Spanish military road that connected the harbors of Genova, Savona and Finale Ligure with the Netherlands.

18th century[edit]

The project[edit]

The Citadel plan was commissioned by King Vittorio Amedeo II and effectively built, in 1732, by King Charles Emmanuel III. The project's architect was Ignazio Bertola. The fortress is a six-star hexagon shaped structure.

The Citadel was built entirely at the expense of the ancient quarter of Borgoglio (or Bergoglio) provoking strong urban revolution. It was completed in its main components in the forties of the 18th century while inside the fortified hexagon the buildings of the civilians were gradually demolished to make way for new military quarters and the inhabitants were forced to relocate, replaced by a garrison ever more numerous.

The result is an immense fortress which extends over 74 hectares (180 acres) whose the longer side is parallel to the axis of the river. The Citadel is a perfect example of modern fortress composed of six bastioned fronts supplied with cavalieri crossed by tunnels and casemates. The fortress is surrounded by a wide moat, in connection with the Tanaro river through flooding tunnels, scheduled to be flooded by the waters of the river, and protected by tenaglioni, ravelins, counterguards and ridottes.

The entrance is by a long stone bridge that leads to a large area surrounded by multi-storey buildings arranged along the axis of the ancient quarter, all protected by resistant embankments constructed between 1749 and 1831.

The War of the Austrian Succession[edit]

The Citadel was tested by fire the first time between 1745 and 1746 when it resisted the French-Spanish army for seven months, during the War of the Austrian Succession. The Citadel was still incomplete and not well armed.

First Italian Campaign[edit]

At the end of the First Italian Campaign, the Citadel was in the hands of the French: in July 1799 it was under siege by the Austro-Russian Army led by Aleksandr Vasilyevich Suvorov. After three days of bombing were inflicted serious damage to the fortified structures and the French were forced to surrender.

19th century[edit]

French occupation[edit]

Following the Battle of Marengo and the proclamation of the First French Empire, Napoleon expanded and renovated the fort to support the operations of the French army in Italy. During the French occupation, the citadel became one of the most important fortresses in the French Empire, since it was intended to be the "eastern gateway" of France.

European restoration[edit]

In 1814 the Austrian army captured the fort and transferred it to the restored Kingdom of Sardinia. The fort was renovated, and by the mid-19th century it became an important bulwark against the Austrian Empire.


Kingdom of Italy[edit]

20th century[edit]

In 1901 the Army Corps of Engineers decommissioned the citadel's cinta magistrale. The Forte di Acqui, the Opera di Valenza and the citadel's outworks were decommissioned in 1904.

Several regiments were stationed in the Cittadella, including the 37th and 38th Infantry Regiments, which formed part of the 3rd Mountain Infantry Division Ravenna.

World War II[edit]

Post-war era[edit]

From 1953 to 1962, the citadel was home to the 52nd Artillery Regiment "Torino". It was then used for logistics functions and as a magazine.

In 1994, the citadel was flooded by the river, and many buildings were severely damaged. Today, some areas are still filled with mud from the flood.

21st century[edit]

Architectural structure[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ 37 Infantry Regiment, 38 Infantry Regiment
  2. ^ Giovanni Spadolini, preface to La Cittadella di Alessandria, una fortezza per il territorio dal settecento all'unità by Anna Marotta . SO.G.ED. 1991
  3. ^ The tricolore was not the classic white-red-green of the Italian flag, but the one with the colors of the Carbonari, blue, red and black


  • Anna Marotta, La Cittadella di Alessandria, una fortezza per il territorio dal settecento all'unità. SO.G.ED. 1991

External links[edit]