We have Professor Pietro Dotti to thank for this study on the municipality of Nizza Monferrato. In it, he provides a painstaking examination of the urban planning of Nizza Monferrato, its administrative structure and economic activities in the Middle Ages, based chiefly on his study of the manuscript known as the Liber Catenae. The author drew largely on the Statutes of the Municipality of Nizza, and on those few available sources that deal with Medieval Nizza. One such is an anonymous unpublished manuscript on the 1613 siege of Nizza. Another is the unpublished fragments of a Chronicle on the building of Nizza, preserved in the town’s municipal archives. A third is the Notes, also unpublished, on the events of August 1860, by Alessandro Ripa di Meana. It is a known fact that the historical assets of the Nizza municipal archive were not only impoverished, but practically destroyed by a sequence of devastating events, mostly linked to wars. In many cases it is therefore necessary to proceed based on suppositions. Sadly, our city is as lacking in documentation and accounts as it is in historical sites. The author of this book was unable to either establish the date of completion of the Liber Catenae or, due to a lack of reliable proof, provide an answer to the much debated question of the origins of the town of Nizza. Professor Dotti posits that Nizza was founded before 1225 C.E., date put forward by Dr. Alberto Migliardi, author of the only extant History of Nizza. He bases his theory on the idea that there are valid reasons for believing that the authenticity of the
“instrument” of 1021, cited by Jacopo Durandi, in which Villa curte Nicia is mentioned, cannot be denied, despite its having been lost during Nizza’s subsequent sacking. Professor Dotti does not, however, believe it likely that our Municipality, despite the account contained in a document referred to by Moriondo in his Monumenta Aquensia, was founded in 1235 by a podestà (chief magistrate) and that it only had a consular government for ten years. He thus concludes that Nizza must have been born before 1225. The section dedicated to urban planning is especially interesting, introducing us to the structure of Medieval Nizza and its street plan. Being able to identify modern streets with their Medieval counterparts lends the town of Nizza an historical depth whose lack has been felt. The stones of Nizza do not tell many tales. There is not much sense of history in the streets and squares of the city, to the point that it would almost feel to be without a past if it were not for Dr. Migliardi’s historical work, which can never be praised enough. In it, he gathered together that which it was possible to save from the depredations of time. From an analysis of the descriptions of Nizza found in Liber Catenae and other unpublished historical sources, Professor Dotti came to believe that it is possible to ascribe to our city a layout of the type described in Mario Morini’s Atlas of the History of Urban Planning: one longitudinal road with secondary roads arranged in a double-sided comb layout. This interpretation is interesting, in that it fits with the type of layout ascribed to the city in Volume 1 of the History of Italy published by Einaudi, which describes Nizza as one of those Medieval cities with an orthogonal structure, rare in Piedmont and uncommon in comparison with the usual radio-centric layout that characterised many Medieval urban centres.