Postcard from Saluzzo, Italy: Transforming a former prison into contemporary gallery space not a problem

Located at the top of the highest hill in Saluzzo, Castello dei Marchesi – La Castiglia was an obvious choice for a fortified castle in the 13th century. Beginning with the French occupation in the 1500s, the once grand brick quarters and towers began to spiral into decline, culminating with their transformation in the 1800s into a high-security prison.

In 2006, the prison was converted into a museum. Portions of the former castle are dedicated to displays relating to life in the Middle Ages, while former prison cells now serve as exhibition space for IGAV – Garuzzo Institute for the Visual Arts, dedicated to contemporary Italian art.

Medieval castles. Former factories. Old prisons. Contemporary Italian architects view transforming existing structures into striking museums as ideal challenges for displaying their talents. Adaptive reuse of existing structures is expected.

Yet in Texas, the General Land Office seems so skeptical of the capabilities of architects that the fine historic landmarks on the west side of Alamo Plaza are deemed impossible to convert into a museum for the Alamo. Absurdly wasteful, unimaginative and disrespectful of the past. So, so very sad.

Postcard from Saluzzo, Italy: Drawn to the devil underfoot once again

As we traveled through Italy this past summer, I increasingly became drawn to the devil in the details. This one from an anonymous painting (see image below) of “The Saints” dating from 1516 is among my favorites. The cute little fellow is being crushed somewhat nonchalantly by Saint Catherine of Siena.

“The Saints” hangs in the Museo Civico Casa Cavassa. Construction of the palace was begun in the 14th century. The medieval building came into the possession of Galeazzo Cavassa in 1450 after he became the general vicar of the Marquis of Saluzzo.

His son Francesco transformed the family headquarters into a “modern” center of Renaissance art and culture. Unfortunately, Francesco fell out of favor with a new Marquis, was imprisoned and was subjected to a violent end. The art collection Francesco had assembled was plundered; although the palace remained in the family’s hands until a 1775 sale to the Marquis Emanuele Tapparelli d’Azeglio.

The Marquis Tapparelli was determined to restore Casa Cavassa to its Renaissance appearance, commissioning appropriate furnishings and beginning to fill it with art. Following his death in 1890, the restored structure was turned over to the municipality as a museum.

 

Postcard from Saluzzo, Italy: Meals from last summer

My apologies to the restaurants of Saluzzo. Although they delivered a rich sampling of the foods of the Piedmont region of Italy, the “postcards” are so slow to be delivered everything is now a jumble.

Le Quattro Stagioni d’Italia is a surprisingly large restaurant with a spacious patio always packed with locals. We found ourselves drawn to both food and patio several times. Taverna San Martino is small, cozy and intimate and regarded by many as the best in town. Osteria Nuovi Mondagli is completely unpretentious, with its magnetic draw a shaded patio perched above one of Saluzzo’s picturesque petit plazas.

Obviously, the town kept us well-fed.