You know, there are some places, near or far, that have a sudden impact on you when you visit them for the first time. Such a positive vibe, due to the people you meet there, the history you breath while wandering around, the food……No matter what it is, but you have such good memories that you keep coming back. This is the case for the village of Busca in Piedmont region, north-west Italy, bordering with France (we’ve been there four times already, over the years). It’s weird because in our local dialect “busca” is something very small, almost unimportant…..the village is indeed a small one but the area surrounding it it’s beautiful. Especially for motorbikes there’s a lot of amazing roads to discover….mountains high and green valleys, rivers and traditions to learn….I’ve already posted something here and here
(Porta S. Maria – Gate of St. Mary – part of the ancient walls)
Studies agree that, like many others with the suffix ” sca ” or ” sco ” (Venasca, Airasca, Brossasco), Busca is of Celtic or Germanic origin. Busca can refer both to the Celtic ” Buxilla ”, as well as the Germanic ” Busch ”, the plural ” Busche ”, or “Buschchen”: all names that indicate a territory covered by bushes, a grove.
Legend tells that the name of Busca is due to the fact that it was built on the banks of the Maira river following the fire of Antilia (mythical name of an ancient town situated on the hill of San Martino) of which it wasn’t left even a ” bait ” (esca in italian). The name appears for the first time in a document dated December 6, 1123.
In the countryside just outside the village, artifacts have been unearthed (huts covering in rush and tools) that date back to the late Bronze Age, second millennium BC.
A plaque in Etruscan characters shows that the population of the area has lived here with no interruptions in the course of history and that 2,000 years ago there was an Etruscan site as a trading post on the route between the south-western Piedmont and the Greek colonies of Nice and Marseille. Excavations around 1950 have unearthed a Roman necropolis in the foothills surrounding the village. In fact, the territory was colonized by the Romans of Colonia Julia Augusta, and divided into large estates between Roman landowners, to enjoy the healthy microclimate of the hill where to grow olive trees and vines. Numerous findings of the Roman period, dating from the I to III AD, were found at the foot of the hill and are now in the museum of Cuneo or in the archaeological one inTurin.
Christianity became a reality here between the V-VII century.
The pre-existing Roman lands of Bebennius, Atticius, Roxius and perhaps Neronis were transformed in villages with the building of the parish churches dedicated to St. Mary, in various years and places.
Before 1000 it was built the church of San Martino (photos below – with a couple of tourists as well….lol…)
The chapel is located at the beginning of the semi moraine, in an area of great archaeological interest. Among the findings, flint scrapers and a stone ax of the third millennium BC, traces of villages inhabited by the Celts from the valleys of Provence blended with the Ligurian Capillati, and a sepulchral stele with an inscription in Etruscan that says: “Mi suthi Larthial Muthicus” (I’m the tomb of Larthial Muthicus) now in the Archaeological Museum of Turin. This sunny hill had become a center of some importance with the spread of Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries: the Roman settlement became a Christian village, with the church built in the place of the temple. The current building dates back to the Lombard-Carolingian and was for several centuries the church’s territory. Dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, born in 316 in Pannonia (Hungary) and asoldier at the service of Rome, he converted to Christianity and became a great bishop and evangelist. Famous for his love for the poor and his donation of the coat to the beggar (scene depicted in the lunette of the entrance). The ancient church remains visible in the pre-Romanesque facade with the beautiful square stones green/gray, with rows of recycled Roman bricks.
During the tenth century the Saracens, already settled in the Gulf of Saint Tropez, reached the Cuneo valleys with their terrible raids. Since the hilltop villages, more rich in nature and harvests, were now insecure, (being on the roads from France) they were abandoned by residents who established new villages in the plain. Dates from the mid-twelfth century the Marquis of Busca, the first was Marquis William, son of Bonifacio del Vasto, circa 1155. Soon Busca was “squeezed” between the rise of the new city of Cuneo (1198) and the establishment of the military power of the Marquis of Saluzzo. At the hands of Thomas I of Saluzzo, the Marquis fell in 1281. During the 126 years of their lordship, the Marquis of Busca built the castle on the hill, probably on the ruins of the ancient Roman “castrum”. Of that building just a few ruins remain, the local call it “Castellaccio”.
From 1281 to 1305 Busca remained under the rule of Saluzzo, then he moved under the Anjou, which had submitted all the region. From 1347 to 1358 it returned to the Marquis of Saluzzo.Then, again, in 1359, it changed hands again to the Anjou, until 1361, when Joan of Anjou, recognizing that the House of Anjou couldn’t protect Busca from the assaults of the Marquis of Saluzzo, left the city free to choose a new Lord.
On 7 April 1361 the City prosecutors stipulated deals with Count Amedeo of Savoy. From that moment Busca remained possession of the House of Savoy, so that Vittorio Emanuele III himself, while still in exile, among many others, holds the title of Marquis of Busca.
The fifteenth was a century plagued by continuous raids of armed gangs at the service of local landlords or operating “on their own”. Busca offered shelter to the farmers of the district. This time saw the highest success of brothers Matthew and Thomas Biazaci, exponents of late medieval painting in Piedmont, also active in Liguria.Many of their works unfortunately disappeared.
It dates back to the fifteenth century the chapel of St. James (along the road to Saluzzo) which marked the passage of pilgrims to the shrine of Santiago de Compostela. Busca in 1536 fell under the rule of Spain, constituting a bulwark Savoy-Spanish wedged in the territory of the Marquis of Saluzzo, an ally of France. In 1537 there were two attempts to take the city from the French, both rejected. In 1552 the French General De Brissac finally managed to get in Busca. The French fortified the city with mighty bastions. With the peace between France and Spain, in 1559 Duke Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy regained power over Busca. In 1630 the plague halved the population: it is estimated that the dead were more than two thousand. After the terrible epidemic, Madama Cristina of France, widow of Duke Vittorio Amedeo of Savoy, and the in-laws, especially Tomaso and Maurizio, started a real civil war. Busca sided with his feudal lord, Thomas, and had to suffer the wrath of the victorious Madama Cristina. In 1642 finally it was peace among the Savoy.
Despite the hardships of the time, the Brotherhood of the Holy Trinity built his church and its hospital on the ruins of the lower castle (photos below).
The church is located in the heart of the city and is also known as “the Red”. It was built by the brothers in 1652 on the ruins of the lower castle, a stronghold of the ‘200 that stood around the tower, probably of Roman origin, now “the tower of the Red”. Next to the church, in 1698, it was built the hospital for the poor, the charitable work of the brothers of the red habit. It’s the oldest local Baroque building, whose interior is enriched by beautiful paintings of Giuseppe Dalamano, with the SS. Trinity crowning the Virgin Mary, and the stucco decoration. It is a work of high quality, equal to the works on castle of Valentino in Turin, which reveals the cultural update of Busca at the time of the Savoy. The facade was restored in 2000 and is divided into two orders, it is animated by an interesting symbolic discourse and presents in the niches the Theological virtues..
In 1707, the entire army of the emperor of Austria, the ally Duke Victor Amadeus, camped in Busca during the journey to Nice to fight the king of France, Louis XIV.
Here comes again in 1743 the French: they arrived in Busca from Cuneo, who were laying siege to the city. This time the people opened their doors and so were well treated by the invaders. It was, however, a brief appearance because after a few days the “guests” went away and Busca was no longer harassed by wars until the last decade of the century.
On December 26, 1798 was erected in the square of the Red Brotherhood the tree of freedom and constituted the first Municipality, namely the new council. Below, photos of Palazzo San Martino and the City Tower, now the City Hall. It was built in the second half of the ‘700. The gallery on the first floor was decorated by B. Giuliano in 1855 with mythological stories of Venus. The village hall is decorated in neoclassical taste, while the tower is from the end of ‘800, in brick, neo-gothic romantic style.
The monarchies soon returned as rulers, and in june 1799 arrived in Busca a company of Austro-Russians army that cut down the tree of liberty. The return of Napoleon in 1800 brought the tree of liberty back in place and the city was involved in the fortunes of the Napoleonic empire: conscription provided many of its young people to the imperial armies.
In the social and artistic fields, the century was very fruitful. In 1717 works began for the construction of the parish church dedicated to the Virgin Mary of the Assumption (below), designed by the architect Francesco Gallo. It was erected on the site of the former Gothic church, built in the ‘300 from the union of the hills’ parishes. Of the original building only the bell tower is left, much altered and deprived of the tented roof in 1740. The facade is tiled with two floors separated by an eave. At the bottom is the great portal, which remained unfinished. The actual gate in walnut wood is from1728.
In 1727 also the Confraternity of the Holy Annunciation decided to build his church and entrusted the project to the same Gallo. Located almost in front of the parish church, it’s called the church “White” (photos below).
The church, has ancient origins. The first seat of the brothers with the white habit was built in 1330 and rebuilt in the ‘500. The current building designed by Francesco Gallo was built between 1728 and 1735.
The building has a central plan and both inside and outside a gentle and harmonious play of solid and void that is accomplished in the polygonal lantern of the dome and the slender bell tower. Inside, a soft lighting enhances the plastic composition of pilasters, cornices and stucco, animated by the decorative painting of Joseph Delamano that dates back to 1736. In the presbytery the wondrous icon of the main altar takes up the theme of the building, the Annunciation. Particularly significant is the choir. The stalls are the work of Antonio Selletti, the paintings of Delamano. In the niches of the pylons, the plastic figures of the four evangelists are the work of Clement (1756).
One of the most amazing places in Busca, located in the hills, it’s the Castle of Roccolo…..
The castle is named after the nets used to catch small birds called roccoli. In 1831 it was bought by the Marquis Roberto Tapparelli d’Azeglio, who rebuilt it in the neo-Gothic style favoured by the Savoy court and in fashion at the time around Saluzzo. A chapel was built near the residential quarters, finished in 1842, while the monumental Serre (conservatory) was built in the section of the park opposite the castle between 1846 and 1850 and recently restored. Over the years the castle has hosted illustrious figures such as Silvio Pellico, King Umberto I and Queen Margherita.
The castle’s exterior is a harmonious blend of Moorish arches, swallowtail merlons, rose windows and floral decorations. The facade made of red brick, bordered by two pretty circular towers with battlements, has rows of windows mullioned cuspidate and edged with rich plots and ornaments.
The highlight is the entrance by the “pincer” staircase embellished with motifs of clover and a fountain. Behind the staircase there is a magnificent gate with a double wooden swing and an engraved glass made in Art Nouveau style. The interiors are stunning as well….
The Castle of Roccolo in Busca is surrounded by a large park of about 500,000 square meters built in the style of a romantic garden, very popular in the nineteenth century. Terraces connected by stairs, ponds, fountains, statues, grottoes, romantic spots, in part designed by Xavier Kurten, are alternating between them allowing a nice walk. In the park stands the monumental structure of the greenhouses, built between 1846 and 1850 and restored in 2003. The roof of the building is a large terrace where you can enjoy a splendid panorama.
I don’t know if in the future our paths will come across there for the fifth time, but it won’t be a bad thing….