“… I liked going to the markets, and it was at a market that my sentence came. It did not happen immediately, I was able to look all around the Niella market…”
La malora (Ruin), Beppe Fenoglio
The name of the village of Niella Belbo, another place typical of Beppe Fenoglio, might derive from a plant, Nigella damascena, which grows abundantly amongst the crops. An annual with a blackish stem, it belongs to the Ranunculaceae family and can grow up to 50 centimetres tall.
The village is located up in the hills, at 785 meters above sea level, near the Belbo river, and the soil is perfect for growing Upper Belbo Valley potatoes.
The village’s architecture preserves some medieval traces. The remains of a castle are visible, dated to the first half of the 13th century and completely destroyed during the 17th-century wars. A tower and a tower-gate still remain, both located inside the current built-up area.
The first structure, with a square plan, has a solid curtain wall in irregular stone ashlars. All the sides, except for one, have an arrow slit halfway up, while immediately below the roof are large windows.
The tower-gate seems instead to be from the 15th century: to the south (away from the village) it has a slightly pointed ogival arch, while on the other side it has a second segmental arched lintel.
The ogival arch is made from ashlars that are larger and more regular than those in the rest of the structure.