As early as in the Stone Age people were already living in the numerous caves in our mountains (the caves of Gray and Valdinferno are remarkable for their archeological finds), once abundant in wildlife, including bears, among the icy and fish rich waters of the Tanaro (derived from the Tyrrhenian root “ar” = water and the Greek verb “ruo” = to flow). The area was populated by fierce warriors and wild herdsmen (“ager compascuus” of Prato Rotondo), the Liguri Montani and Vagienni who gave the Romans of the Publilia tribe (connected to the Municipium of Albenga) a hard time. From this Roman phase we are left with many pieces of evidence: the tombstones of Trappa, Mindino, a tomb with fictile vases, the head of the Roman bridge at Piangranone, etc.
From the 9th century Saracen hordes arrived from Frassineto (present-day Saint Tropez, Provence) and
went on to ravage the entire Tanaro Valley and southern Piemonte, leaving some cylindrical watchtowers as evidence of their passage (Barchi). Towards the end of the 10th century our population revolted against the Saracens (Eca Nasagò = place of bloody battle) and the Marca Aleramica was then established, according to the new division of Italy carried out by Berengario II around 950.
The Christian faith, already widespread in Garessio before the Saracens, as attested by the remains of the
ancient Pieve di San Costanzo chapel built on a Roman sacellum, flourished again after the year 1,000 thanks to the construction of new churches and monasteries (e.g. the Certosa di Casotto known for the Beatified Guglielmo di Borgoratto), while in the political sphere the name of Garessio is possibly attested for the first time in a public deed dating back to 1064 (Garexium, from “garricus” = uncultivated land, with the suffix “esce” = place of passage).
After a series of ups and downs, Garessio became part of the marquisate of Ceva, and it was in 1276 that
Marquis George II the Dwarf granted, in exchange for their military favors, the Statutes to the “men of Garessio”, later collected in the famous “Libro della catena” currently preserved in the Municipal Library.
From the medieval period we can still see the ruins of the old castle dominating from above the Borgo Maggiore, once destroyed by the Savoy around 1635, and still surrounded by walls, gates, defense towers with bridges and archways that still survive and can be admired in the memory of ancient legends (e.g. the Lady of the Pink Bridge).
Unfortunately, Garessio had to suffer numerous misfortunes over the centuries: plagues, depredations, destructions by the Genoese, French, Spanish until the arrival of the Napoleonic troops around 1794, bringing both freedom but also death and disruption.
In 1814 Garessio went back under the rule of the Savoys and shared its fate, at first with the Sardinian-Piemontese reign and then, after the wars of the Risorgimento, with the Regno Unito d’Italia.
By Royal Decree of June 11, 1870, Vittorio Emanuele II granted the title of “City” to Garessio and the right
to bear the ancient coat of arms (two black and two gold horizontal stripes parallel to each other, with the
crown of the Marquis above them). Numerous were the inhabitants of Garessio who shed their blood for
the Fatherland, both in the Risorgimento and in World War I and more so during World War II, which saw the birth in Garessio, on the same September 8, 1943 , of the first active forces of the Italian Resistance and the subsequent acts of heroism of the Casotto Valley. In addition to the numerous Partisans awarded with gold and silver medals, the City of Garessio was given the bronze medal for military valor for the Liberation Fight.
At the Geo-Speleological Museum, numerous artifacts of local history have been collected, as well as in the Civic Library and Art Gallery and the Historical Archives, rich in rare and valuable documents.
In remembrance of ancient traditions of authentic religious folklore, it is worth mentioning the Sacred Representation of the Passion and Death of Christ, the “Mortorio”, which is still periodically reenacted today with the same genuine poetic sensitivity that we find in the well-known local playwright of the 1700s, Camillo Federici, and which later made the Garessio poet Giuseppe Ramondo say in dialect, “Garesce l’è u ciù bè paise du mundu.”
Today Garessio is a peaceful resort and vacation spot renowned for its beautiful location between the sea
and green mountains, for its ideal weather conditions and above all for its famous San Bernardo water.
Like all mountain villages, Garessio retains great respect for its traditions; and although the Mortorio, thousands of years old and enormously evocative in origin, remains the most significant one, many remain attached to the celebrations of the Patron Saints, the priorates, and the processions.
Traditions that are also endured in secular festivals, from the ancient carnival of the Magnin to the modern Carrera, in the autumn chestnut festivals, and in the exceptional combination of Saracen polenta with leek sauce, which, in addition to being our main typical dish, constitutes the greatest gathering moment of the summer festivals.