The town’s present name is derived from Clastidium. Its founders, of Ligurian origin, belonged to the people called Anamari by the Greek, which almost certainly corresponds to the Roman term Marici. They settled around Pavia, in the region between the Apennines and the river Po.
Clastidium became one of the major villages in the area. The Marici had to form an alliance with the Romans in 223 B.C., against the Insubres. Shortly after that, in 222 B.C., the Insubres, supported by Celtic mercenaries from the valley of the river Rhone, attacked the place, but were defeated by the Romans who came at once to help the commanding consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus. The victory of Casteggio paved the way for the Roman conquest of Milan. In 218 B.C., Hannibal defeated the Romans near the Ticino, bribed the commander of the Roman garrison in Casteggio, Dasius Brindisinus, and had him hand over all the foodstuffs kept in storage by the Romans. In 197 B.C., the consul Quintus Minucius Rufus first forced numerous Ligurian “oppidas” to surrender, one of them being Casteggio. After the surrender, which took place under unclear circumstances, Rufus set the settlement on fire, probably as a punishment for a rebellion.
Casteggio was later rebuilt, but it never regained its former importance. It flourished as a colony of Piacenza, as we can deduct from the many archaeological finds found in ancient tombs and villas.
In 1164, Frederick I assigned it to the municipality of Pavia, together with a large portion of the present Oltrepò. Although the Beccaria family had the primacy over it, the town remained free from feudal lordship until the 14th century. Its Lain name Clastidium was changed, as educated people used the term Chiasteggio after Petrarch had used it in his Triumph of Fame.
As of 1441, it was the estate of the Martinengo, then of the Sforza, the Bentivoglio and later of the Del Carretto families. As the latter were extinct at the beginning of the 17th century, by will the town was inherited by their relatives, the Sforzas, the Marquises of Caravaggio. The last member of their family, Bianca Maria, who died at a very early age in 1717, left the estate to her newborn, Bianca Maria Sinzendorf. She maintained the estate for a long time and left it to her daughters who carried their father’s surname, Doria.
Casteggio was severely damaged during the Spanish-French wars in the 16th century. Under the rule of the House of Savoy, it went through a noteworthy economic and demographic recovery that reached its climax in the second half of the 19th century.
Places of interest
• Hannibal’s Fountain / Fontana di Annibale
• Oratory of St. Sebastian / Oratorio di San Sebastiano
• Church of St. Peter the Martyr / Chiesa di San Pietro Martire
• The Certosa Cantù Palace
• Archaeological Museum / Museo Archeologico
• Wine Growers’ Cooperative / Cantina Sociale di Casteggio