We’re in the Middle Ages, in the heart of the Lunigiana: Giovagallo is a village tied to the history of the Malaspina family.
Following a division, in 1266 the ancient fief, which also includes the territories of Bola and Novegigola, arrived in the hands of the Marquis Manfredo Malaspina (known as “il lancia” for his ability to use the weapon.
The family builds and amplifies a castle with a walled village on top of an impassable hill, almost inaccessible and insuperable due to its rocky surface, situated to the right of the Penolo stream.
The castle, damaged by time, is today but a pile of ruins, though it was once a strategic junction thanks to its logistical and structural characteristics: located on the eastern hill of Monte Corneviglia, it was surrounded both to the east and the west by two deep canyons, reachable via a road coming from the north.
The castle boasted an advantageous position; it was useful for defense but unsuitable as a residence: legend says that in times of peace the castle would be abandoned.
From the main tower, the castle offered an extensive view over the territory of the fief: the building hosted the marquises, guards and, naturally, servants, a cistern held water carried in via a duct built into the wall, rendering the castle independent in the event of an attack, and there was an oratory that was used by Alagia for praying.
First with Manfredi, in 1266, then with his son Moroello and his wife Alagia Fieschi, the Malaspina marquises were generous patrons of Dante Alighieri.
A generosity that the supreme poet repaid by mentioning Moroello in the 24th canto of Inferno and Alagia in the 19th canto of Purgatory.Morello is defined as a “bolt from Val di Magra” and his person is exalted for his valour in the battle of Campo Piceno, which the Marquise of Giovagallo won (Canto XIV, v.145-151):
“Next Mars draws up a bolt from Val di Magra,
engulfed by torn and threatening clouds,
and, with violent and stinging storms,
on Campo Piceno the battle shall be joined.
The headlong bolt shall rend the clouds,
striking and wounding every White.
And this I have told that it may make you grieve!"
Alagia is a protagonist in Purgatory, where Dante distinguishes her from the rest of her family, defining her as good in nature (Canto XIX, v. 142-145):
“On earth I have a niece who is called Alàgia
She is still virtuous, if indeed our house
Has not by its example made her wicked,
And she alone is left to me back there”.
The supreme poet commends Moroello despite having wounded his friends and rendered them helpless.
More touching is his nod to Alagia Fieschi: the praise, found within the domain of Greed, exalts the generosity of the noblewoman, so extravagant was she with intercessions for the dead that she, Dante says, would not need the intercession of anyone to ascend one day to the ranks of the blessed.
The praise certainly serves to underline Dante’s recognition for the hospitality he enjoyed at Giovagallo Castle.