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Water, blue gold for Napoleon’s glory and gluttony.

The French triumph at Marengo, which emerged from Napoleon Bonaparte’s strategic supervision, was aided by the cloudburst thrown by Jupiter on the Fraschéta plateau to curb the Hapsburg troops. The Fontanone, a large canal with sloping banks and a depth of two metres, lined the plain from Frugarolo (to the north) to Lobbi (to the south): on June 14th 1800, the riverbed swollen by the deluge slowed down the march of 30,000 Austrian soldiers from the Pederbona estate to the Marengo valley. Nowadays it is impossible to see the bottom of the irrigated stream, which was restored at the very beginning of 1900, but it is possible to define two traces that were unknown in past centuries. The wide (4 metres) and long (12 metres) depression stretching over the park of Villa Delavo is the dry riverbed and in Lobbi, in Via Franchini 15, the pair of basement arches next to the Fontanone and the irrigation ditches, which are still visible, suggests the ancient wash-house. Currently, the Fontanone is the irrigation canal near the village of Marengo and continues its course at Casteceriolo and Lobbi to flow almost at the junction of the Bormida and Tanaro: the topographical parallel reflects the original location. The fresh water, limpid at dawn in the 19th century, was the mine of small crustaceans developed by the cook of the French high commands: the myth consecrates to Dunand’s mastery chicken “alla Marengo”, the very rich and nutritious single dish (crayfish, chicken, eggs, prataioli mushrooms) preferred by the Corsican Generalissimo to celebrate his later victories at Marengo.