Cairo Montenotte castle is famous for having been the object of fighting up to the 16th and 17th centuries because of the battles of succession between the Genoese, the French, the Spanish and the Savoys. These battles devastated this region, causing it to be abandoned definitively by the last owners, who preferred to remain in the village.The origins of the castle go back to long ago, more specifically to the period between the 11th and 12th centuries, when Ottone del Carretto built it as his home after having inherited the mountain property upon the death of his father, Enrico Del Carretto, the main upholder of the family fortune.
As already highlighted, the position of Cairo village, which the castle looked down upon and administered, made it possible to control the business activities along the road which led from Vado to Acqui and Tortona, continuing to Alba and Asti.
At the beginning of the 13th century Otto I ceded his property to the Republic of Genoa and, following this change, the village lived through a prosperous period. There is proof that the castle had many prestigious visitors, among which Conradin, and the famous French troubadour Arnaut Daniel.
In 1322 the castle changed owners again, moving into the hands of Manfredo IV, the Marquis of Saluzzo, and then to the Scarampi lineage, which used it as a residence until the 17th century.Visiting this military base now means visiting a building that was changed greatly, as is confirmed by the building façade which is divided into two distinct blocks for two branches of the Scarampi lineage. The remaining parts of the buildings can instead be attributed to the 15th century and the parallel plastered walls presenting the alternating use of brickwork and stone, as if to create a decoration around the windows, is an element that suggests use for residing rather than for defence.
Unfortunately little remains from the original building. Proof of the Carretto phase can be in the ruins of the tower, positioned behind the rest of the complex. The tower acted as the keep of the fortification, had a square floor and blended in with the walls, which are still partially visible.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.