GIOVANNI ANTONIO BONGIOVANNI DI CASTELBORGO
Manfredo Bongiovanni died in 1762, leaving his estate to his firstborn son, Giovanni Antonio, who was just 13 years old.
He became the ward of the architect and notary Giovanni Antonio Borgese, to whom we owe the design for the majestic portal of the Vegetable Garden. Giovanni Antonio Borghese administered the estate of the Counts of Castelborgo until 1773 with great care and attention.
Thanks to his guardian, the young Count of Castelborgo was able to study in Turin and become a notary.
He married the ‘little blonde countess’ Anna Goatley and had one son, Alessandro
(1781 - 1823).
In 1796, Napoleon reached Alba, captured it, and crossed the lower part of Neive on his way to Canelli. Fortunately, the area was mostly uninhabited (with the exception of the cascina Conte Cocito and a mill).
Additional damage came in the form of exorbitant requests for money and supplies for his soldiers.
Noble and ecclesiastic rights were abolished and the holdings of the Confraternity of Santa Maria del Piano di Neive and of the Monastery di S. Maria Maddalena of Alba were requisitioned, along with others. To convert the value of these holdings into cash, the wealthy inhabitants of the area were obliged to buy them.
The Count of Castelborgo was required to purchase the Cascina Vicenziana for 6000 lire.
Signor Bongiovanni, in addition to being mayor of Neive in 1798, was a staunch and confirmed Jacobin.
In love with everything French, he went as far as to plant one of the first Pinot Nero vineyards in Piedmont, which was later recounted by Louis Oudart.
In December 1798, Napoleon proclaimed Piedmont a republic with the Conte di Castelborgo and the Marquis Falletti of Barolo defending local interests.
When Napoleon left for Egypt in 1799, the Austro-Russian alliance seized the opportunity to retake Milan. A ‘sacred legion’ was established in Turin to defend the Piedmontese Republic, of which Giovanni Antonio Bongiovanni was a member. They quickly realised the futility of their plans and fled. In May of 1799, the Austro-Russian alliance succeeded in retaking Piedmont and made the same exorbitant requests as had Napoleon, further impoverishing the area.
The hunt for supporters of Napoleon, such as the ex-Count of Castelborgo began. Luckily, he escaped, first to the Cascina Cissone at Neive and thence to France. His wife took refuge in the parish church.
The frustrated ‘realists’, as they were called, took advantage of the situation to occupy and sack the Castello, and caused great damage to the entire family home.
Fortunately, at the end of 1799, Napoleon returned from the Egyptian campaign and seized power in Piedmont and Lombardy once again.
Giovanni Antonio Bongiovanni returned to the Castello and had the frescoes in the salons redone in their present style (Empire–reflecting Napoleon's return from Egypt) in honour of the return of the French.
Following Napoleon's invasion of Italy and the establishment of the Cisalpine Republic, Neive was made a municipality in 1800 and in 1806 Bongiovanni was made maire, or mayor of Neive. He remained in office until 1814, the same year that the house of Savoy regained possession of Piedmont.
In 1810, Bongiovanni had helped to organise the marriage of Napoleon to Marie-Louise of Habsburg-Lorraine. Napoleon's flight to Elba, his re-entry into France and subsequent defeat at Waterloo had little direct effect on the position of the Count of Castelborgo; he was once again mayor from 1819 until 1821. He died in 1822, perhaps as a result of an epidemic, bequeathing all to his son Alessandro..
Alessandro inherited upon Giovanni Antonio’s death in 1822, however he died himself a year later, and so had little influence on the outcomes of the family and the Castello.
Proximity to the Bonapartes is clear: Alessandro married Anna Favrat, daughter of Baron Favrat of Belleveux, named Procurer-General of the Court of Audit in Turin by Napoleon.
In 1823, the Castello and the surrounding estate passed to Camillo Bongiovanni di Castelborgo (1802 - 1862), who managed it for 40 years with great care and prudence.
In addition to his astute political and intellectual abilities, we owe Camillo di Castelborgo the partnership with Louis Oudart, which will be discussed along with the history of the cellar.