The Alba boroughs between history and tradition

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Nine districts animated by the passion of many volunteers, are ready to invade the capital of the Langhe for a day.

The donkey Palio features nine districts of the city of Alba. The first is the Borgo di San Lorenzo, located in the historical centre of the city, famous all over the world for its delicious white truffle and fine wines. It it is the oldest district, as it is the custodian of the Roman spirit, of religiosity , obedience, justice, contentions and historical events. Its ancient streets preserve some of the most important monuments of the city: the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Municipality, the Romanesque church of San Domenico, the Social Theatre, the Church of the Maddalena, the Roman archaeological path and many other splendid palaces and sites of artistic interest. The emblem of the Borgo di San Lorenzo, chosen by the villagers in 1967, is an elaboration of the seal of the De Braida, a noble and powerful family from Alba, who, for a long time was head of the Guelph faction of the city and that in 1259 had five members in the Council, who delegated Corrado Corradengo and Ottone De Braida to treat the Municipality’s dedication to Carlo D’Angiò. The shield of the Borgo di San Lorenzo brings silver enamel to three blue roe deer and the colours assumed by the burghers in their splendid historical costumes are sapphire blue, pearl white, velvet black, silver and gold.

The second is the Borgo dei Patin and del Tesor which extends on the right side of the centre, opposite to Borgo San Martino, up to the church of Santi Cosma e Damiano, height to via Paruzza, a northern border shared with the Borgo of San Lorenzo. To the south, the border is traced by the railway, a border shared with the Borgo di Santa Barbara, while in the east it continues until it reaches the countryside. Originally, however, when the donkey Palio was reborn, the village was called the Neolithic to remember the prehistoric settlements found in Alba and preserved in the “Federico Eusebio” museum, but it was also already known as the village of Bonòm and Tesòr and it was among the first six villages participating in the modern palio. We should also remembered that in 1967 the Borgo dei Patin and the Tesor was the only one which has already the flag-wavers, a tradition that continues thanks to the strong commitment of the youngest. The emblem shows a shield divided horizontally in the red and blue enamels with a golden coin, crossed by the words “Borgh dij Patin and del Tesor” (or “slipper and treasure borough”) and by the stylized drawing of a slipper. This is because the area that is part of the borough in ancient times was populated by precious metal laboratories and prestigious shoemakers.

The Borgo dei Brichèt is located in the San Giovanni district and it is adorned with pink, turquoise and silver colours. Its coat of arms, in which towers and mounds (brichèt) stand out, is adorned with laurel and oak, that reflect the peculiarities of its people. On its territory are located important historical monuments that most characterise the city, testimony of its proud medieval past, such as the red towers (Astesiano, Parusso and Sineo) which are crowned by numerous contemporary buildings. However, it is the mounds of earth (brichèt) that once existed on the central Piazza Elvia that gave rise to the popular name of the place “Piassa dij Brichèt” and the entire village.

The Borgo delle Rane has as its neuralgic heart the historical city sport court, the “Mermet”, theatre of memorable challenges among the champions such as Manzo, Rossi, Berruti, Bertola … Populated by fishermen, the district included numerous taverns that hosted the militias stationed in the garrison set up to defend the “castrum vetus”, the ancient castle of Alba. The Borgo took its name from the Club of the frogs, one of those cheerful brigades created in 1930s.

In the San Giovanni district, or Borgo di San Martino, there is the road which in ancient times marked the road for the Langhe and Liguria. The Alba population, through this route, in fact, brought all the goods from the markets on the other side of the Alps, as well as all those that they exported. In the Borgo di San Martino, moreover, one of the most significant examples of medieval-Renaissance architecture was located: “Serralunga” palace which was the object of the attention of the architect D’Andrate, who was inspired for the building of the “Casa d’Alba ” in the Valentino park in Turin.

On the bifurcation between Corso Piave and Corso Europa is the Borgo del Fumo, an area formerly included in Camparia del Vivaro, one of the seven fields in which the territories outside the city walls were divided. The coat of arms, conceived in 1967, reproduces a quartered shield with the four symbols of the village: the chimney with the smoke, which gave its name to the village, and refers to the numerous brick kilns that since the time of the Roman Republic were operating in the area (the findings of bricks in the village fate back to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries), the sun, the star, the dragon. The enamels are gold and red. Of the represented symbols, only the dragon has no historical reference: it was in fact chosen to represent the character of the people, as sign of impetuousness and strength. On the other hand, it would not have been possible to find a more suitable symbol for those people who, living outside the city walls, were more exposed to the dangers of enemy raids.

Located outside the “walls” of the historical part, the Borgo della Moretta is also outside the door of San Martino and since the beginning of the last century it has been the stage for horse races. Its importance grew in the 17th century when, after the terrible plague of 1630, a votive pillar was built in that place; it was later incorporated into a chapel, which today is the sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna.

Once past the gate of San Martino, from the bridge of the “Mascarela”, today the border between corso Italia and corso Langhe, begins the Borgo di Santa Barbara: a territory that, leaning along the arch of the railway, from the Cherasca stream to piazza Cristo Re , wraps the city beyond the ancient walls interposed between these and the Borgo della Moretta. The Borgo was reborn in 1985 on the initiative of a group of people. For obvious reasons, the new Borgo does not yet have much history behind it, but it has the potential to emerge and return to its former glory. It has of course the same enamels of the past and the same emblem: a silver shield with a red cross. In the blue boxes are represented a griffin, an eagle and three bands. The griffin symbolises courage and aggression; the eagle belongs to the insignia of the ancient Lords of Montersino, who ruled these lands in the 12th century, while the three bands symbolise the waves of the Cherasca stream.

The Borgo of Santa Rosalia concludes the boroughs of Alba description. It was established in 1986, when the Order of the Knights of the “Giostra delle cento torri” recognised it and officially presented it to the other districts of the city of Alba. The coat of arms represents a shield divided with a black eagle in a red field, which breaks a chain, and five red bars in a silver field. They represent the five localities that make up the village: Vedetta, Moncarretto, Santa Rosalia, Enotria and Rivoli.

It is not a real Palio without the flag-wavers

The Flag-wavers Group was born in Alba in 1969, with the aim of bringing back to life those ancient games of the flag that enlivened and coloured the most prestigious ceremonies in the period between the twelfth and eighteenth centuries and that will lead to revive the historical parade and the Palio of the donkeys. The Group was founded 1974 and thanks to the excellent affirmation even outside the city walls, it obtained the possibility of using the red and white colours of the Alba Municipality and took  the name “Alba flag-wavers group”. Since then it has been the official representative of the capital of the Langhe in Italy and abroad, the only advertising carrier of the historical re-enactment of the Palio of the donkeys, as well as the undisputed promoter of the Alba culture and food and wine. Together with the nine townships of the city, the Group constitutes the Giostra delle cento torri and represents one of the main attractions on the occasion of the annual international white truffle fair of Alba, which has its folkloristic and spectacular peak in the historical parade.

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