It was founded thanks to Emanuele Alberto, the son of King Vittorio Emanuele II, with the aim of creating a village with a school, a church, a tobacconist, a baker and a recreational club.
A real village which became home to 250 people, all employed by the winery, and where 15 families still live today.
An authentic place, where every corner and every view have a unique story to tell.
Italy’s first storytelling village, with 30 small stories to bring the historic village back to life, exploring, learning about and listening to its history and the things that have taken place there.
Italy's first storytelling village.
13 small stories to bring the historic village back to life, exploring its over 160 years of history, telling the story of every view, every tree and every building for all those who come to visit.
Browse the narrative map and discover the secrets and legends that have inhabited the village for over 160 years: click on the numbers and enter a magical world of stories, friendship, social interaction and hard work.
The Custodian's House
Built between 1860 and 1870. Here lived the families that passed down the duty of ensuring the privacy of the Mirafiore family and of regulating in ward and out ward traffic. No one could enter of leave without having been attentively examined by the custodian. Famous was the Vialardi family who alternated from father to son as custodians of the estate for over 50 years. To this day locals remember the austere and scrutinizing stare of “Monari” who never let an entrance or an exit go unobserved.
La Vigna Magica di Mirafiore
At a time when technique and science where not sufficient, the most the old farmers could do was place their hope in magic. The Langa, in fact, is full of old testaments and legends relating to magic. Usually these stories are tied to natural calamities, such as the arrival of new, unknown diseases, or particularly adverse weather patterns approaching just before the harvest. It is possible that the stone vineyard had been created to contrast the drama caused by phylloxera, a disease that destroyed European viticulture in the early 1900’s. The magical element represents a system of oral knowledge used to interpret the world and tackle daily hardships. Talismans, stones, enchantments, and prayers are all expressions of the culture of a community that searched for solutions, even transcendental ones, which could battle calamities, derail destiny towards a state of serenity, and fight against the state of despair. In addition to being organic, this vineyard is also magical, thanks to its stones… We cannot exactly explain why, but this “magical” wine tastes better. Try it yourself!
The building appears on the Village blueprints only from 1919 on, year in which its construction was finished. The building was designated to be lived in by the company’s staff. The old residents called it “Ca’ Nova” (“New House”), perhaps because, compared to the buildings built towards the end of the 19th century, this building was designed with more modern principles, ensuring increased comfort for its residents. The possibility of living within the Village was part of a numerous and appealing series of what today we would call “benefits”, something definitely ahead of its time considering employees were also guaranteed contributions and the right to a retirement fund. To this day, Palazzo Madama still hosts the families of some employees.
The Magic Vineyard of Mirafiore
The first workers arrived at Fontanafredda back when King Vittorio Emanuele II was here and some of them were permitted to live in the farmsteads, with a sort of rudimental “room and board” contract. Once Emanuele Alberto, son of the King, founded the winery, what before was more-or-less a clandestine royal estate quickly transformed into a hamlet. In the following decades, it grew to the point of becoming a small village with a school, a church, a bakery, as well as a recreational center. At its peak, the village was home to 250 people. Today, 15 families still live there.
The Clock Building
Construction of the building ended in 1880 by the will of the Count of Mirafiore, Emanuele Alberto, son of the King. Later, when the Village was inherited by the son Gastone, his wife, Countess Margherita, chose to open the co-ed school to allow the employees’ children to learn to read, write, and count. In 1911, the lower level of the building was therefore reserved for the school. The teachers, three nuns, lived on the upper level. Studying was alternated with recreation: one of the two stables of the building was the meeting area for the winter watches, an ancient farmer tradition during which people would meet, play cards, drink wine, listen to the grandmothers as they told stories to the children, play music, and dance. Today the building hosts the employees’ offices and the wine shop and a tasting area.
The Historic Cellars
Their construction, organized on different levels in order to maximize efficiency of operations, was completed with Emanuele Alberto. It is a place rich in history and separate areas where the great wines of the Langhe are born: the Cathedral, which is vaguely reminiscent of a gothic cathedral, it now hosts forty-two Slavonian oak barrels of approximately 140 hectolitres; the Stable housed the king’s horses, along with the pigs and cattle that belonged to the sharecroppers. Today it is thought to be one of the longest barrel cellars in Europe; la Cantina Mirafiore where there are still six original chestnut barrels in the king’s cellar. Moreover, we can see the first concrete tanks built in Europe to patent by the Swiss company Borsari date back to 1887 that they were built right here. During the wine tour you will discover all anecdotes about this fascinating world
Every tree has a story to tell. The great trees of Vittorio Emanuele II
In 1858, when King Vittorio Emanuele II purchased the lands previously owned by Roggeri Giacomo by means of a Royal decree sent to the municipality of Serralunga d’Alba, Fontanafredda was a simple and small subzone with spectacular soils but nothing else. It was the King, in fact, who began construction of the cellars and the Royal Villa, planted the first vineyards, and created this park. In those days, the wealthy would distinguish themselves by collecting precious, exotic plants, sometimes already centuries old, in their gardens, having them shipped from all over the world.
We have studied and catalogued each plant, providing you with information regarding their species, their history, and their origin. More specifically, do not miss these 9: Greed Spruce (1858), Deodara Cedar Tree and Himalayan Cedar Tree (1870), Ginkgo (1870), Read Beach (1870), Costal Sequoia (1878), Common Oak Tree or English Oak Tree (1870), Atlantic Silver Cedar Tree (1950), Black Poplar (1950), Incense Cedar or Libocedrus Cedar (1870).
The royal villa
The structure probably already existed in 1858 when the Village became part of His Majesty’s holdings. It was later expanded on the King’s orders and renamed “Royal Villa” (also known as his hunting lodge). Initially, the villa was quite small with only the central structure had been built, they followed the expansion work which saw the construction of the two side structures. After the Second World War, the Villa was chosen by the new owners, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank, for representative activities. Today the Royal Villa hosts Guido Ristorante, of the Alciati brothers. On the second floor, intact, are the King’s and Rosina’s bedrooms.
The little church, dedicated to the “Mary of the Snow” was erected in 1906. Previously, in its place, was a building used as the bread oven and Mass was celebrated within the Royal Villa. Baptisms, weddings, and funerals set the rhythms of a living community. Many of the priests throughout the years were a pivotal point in the life of the estate, performing the most diverse functions aside from their priestly ones, organizing theatrical recitals and defending the workers in times of most uncertainty. To this day, during festivities, the parish priest of Serralunga d’Alba celebrates Mass in the little church of Fontanafredda.
The little lake, already shown in a map from 1850 before the acquisition of the estate by His Majesty, was probably of smaller dimensions compared to the current ones as it was filled by a cold spring which gave the Village its name and, especially, by the rainwater collected by the surrounding hills. In the winter, this lake would provide the ice for the ice-house and it is said that the truffles that were found nearby were enormous.
Fontanafredda’s social club was set up in the late 1800s as a sort of “Brotherhood of Farmworkers”. The club was created by Emanuele Alberto Count of Mirafiore, a very empathic man with a great commitment to the estate, who also had the working and personal lives of his employees at heart. People say that the king’s son used to spend his evenings reading books to those among his staff who were unable to read themselves. The CRAL – Centro Ricreativo Aziendale Lavoratori (Employees’ Recreational Circle, or Social Club), was reformed in 1973, thanks to the efforts of its members and chairman, Mauro Marchioni.
Villaggio Narrante continues to be a community, in which the CRAL is still devoted to the estate’s employees and is a non-profit social club which organises, trips, cultural tours, summer camps and much, much more.
Inside Palazzo Madama, the farming community of the Village was able to make use of a rural oven to bake bread and other things. Some historical pictures show that the oven was originally built in 1900, on the spot currently occupied by the little church. In the twenties, when Palazzo Madama was built, the decision was made to move it to the new building, which was better placed in relation to the employees’ homes. Every farmer made his own dough during the night between the Saturday and Sunday and on the Sunday morning, before mass, everyone stood in line to bake their bread.
The birth of slow food in the rotonda
The Mirafiore Rotonda, the original shape of which can still be clearly identified on the ceiling with its particular rib vault ceiling, is a beautiful example of 19th century industrial architecture, once used for crushing and fermenting grapes. The grapes used to be tossed through holes in the sides, which are now bricked up, into big wooden vats where they were trodden. In this magical place the first meeting of the Arcigola movement was held in 1986. Arcigola was the forerunner of what was to become Slow Food, born right here, thanks to a group of friends led by Carlin Petrini. The Mirafiore Rotonda is a “barricaia”, the cellar that is home to our smallest barrels, barriques with a capacity of 225 litres, made of medium-toasted French Allier oak. Paradoxically, the front of one of the biggest barrels ever stored in the cellar has been set into the wall here. It dates back to 1920 and had a capacity of 281 hectolitres, corresponding to a total of 37,000 bottles.