One of the most unique and memorable parts of my trip to Europe, was retracing some of my family history by spending two nights at the Castello della Manta.
My paternal grandmother was born and grew up in Italy. Our family has owned and lived in a castle in the small town of Manta for generations. Growing up, I had heard about this castle, seen some photos and googled it a couple of times, but had never been to visit.
Castello della Manta is home to late Gothic frescoes and is considered one of Europe’s most important sites of its kind. The castle was originally a medieval fortress, which is evident from its outside appearance. The inside was updated over the centuries, becoming aristocratic residence.
This image of the earth with the Latin inscription has a fascinating story behind it. This ceiling painting‚ dates back to around 1560. As we know from the history books, Columbus had only discovered America in 1492. The shape of the world’s continents was not common knowledge by the time this painting was made, and yet, it’s generally accurate. It’s theorized that the Saluzzo family used their influence to contact someone, most likely inside the Vatican, to get a look at those maps of the world, which were valuable and basically classified documents at the time.
The grounds of the castle are fairly large. There’s a park in the front and a large garden in the back, which grows all kinds of fruits and vegetables. While I was there, the tomatoes were in season, so we were eating lots. Just down the hill from the castle, is the old farmhouse, where the castle’s farmer would live. It’s located by the vines and also had stalls and troughs set up to house animals. It’s now been renovated and finished, and it’s where I slept during my stay.
There is also a church, annexed to the castle, which include more frescoes, depicting the life of Christ. These frescoes date back to the 16th century.
Finally there is a guard tower, which overlooks the town of Manta and has a bell tower that chimes every hour.
While staying in Manta, I was able to get out onto a couple of excursions. First off, I visited the nearby town of Cuneo, for its weekend market. While there, I visited the Café Arione, which Ernest Hemingway had visited for their famous Cuneesi al Rhum.
My family also brought me to a remarkable restaurant. Nestled on a quiet road of a nearby mountain, the restaurant was rebuilt in a renovated farmhouse. We were fed a multi-course meal, (meat, pasta, sausages, ham, fish, desert) with a variety of wines that came from vines grown right on the property.
Visiting the castle at Manta was a highlight of my trip. Retracing my family heritage, eating some fantastic food and following in the footsteps (albeit briefly) of Ernest Hemingway are memorable experiences that have already influenced me in the short time that’s passed since my visit.