GTL on a MTB - Leg 4
Through the heart of the Uzzone Valley and its beech forests, the last survivor of these highlands, on a journey to discover just how much nature has been protected at these climes.
The starting point is the village of Prunetto, its castle rising straight up from the hilltop below, spared by an earthquake that once swallowed up half the village, leaving it teetering at the edge of the abyss. One can almost see the hand of God seeking to save both the castle and the adjacent Madonna del Carmine Sanctuary, an extraordinary example of 12th century architecture that has been expanded multiple times over the centuries and which, on its own, makes a trip up here worth the effort. Inside the sanctuary, you will find remarkable 15th century frescoes by Segurano Cigna of Mondovì and the intriguing remains of previous works that are among the oldest in all the valley.
The sanctuary’s grounds are the perfect complement to the ominous 13th century castle, which has maintained all its original form, with the exception of its moat. Its impressive great tower at one corner, the drawbridge entrance, the palacium connected to the entrance to the tower by parapets and machicolations, the inner courtyard and the late-15th century mullioned windows, with their equilateral pointed arches, embellish the southern and western façades.
From this medieval village, you will head up along the road that rises up from the intersection in front of the church and follow the signs for Pian Ronchetto, Bosco and Piani. Turn left at the first crossroads, immediately after the parking lot for a trattoria. Continue up gradually though the farmhouses and then take an ample curve to the left through a number of sections of woodlands and on to the intersection at Piani. Turn right and head up to the last farm.
Enter the courtyard, turn right and climb up to the crest of the hill, where you will find a small, traditional structure known as a ciabòt, where you can enjoy the view of both the Prunetto castle and all of the Uzzone Valley.
The itinerary then takes you into the Bosco dei Faggi (literally “beech forest”), near a small parking area. At the first fork on the lift, there is a brief, highly recommended deviation to admire a dense grouping of oldgrowth beech trees that create a particularly evocative atmosphere. This may be the last spot in the Alta Langa where it is possible to admire these magnificent trees. Once very common, they are now relegated to a few isolated areas in the dampest valleys.
Once back on the flat dirt road, continue to the left along the crest of the hill to the intersection at Bricco della Colma. Turn left onto the paved road and descend quickly until you reach a shrine and an isolated farmhouse. A final flat section will take you to an intersection, where you will leave the paved road and continue along a trail that heads up to your left and into the woods, which will first be a sparse grouping of pine trees followed by a cooler chestnut grove. Here the vegetation is noticeably lush, a paradise for nature lovers. Indeed, the Uzzone Valley below is green and rich with pristine woodlands, making it the ideal place for mushroom hunting and other outdoor activities.
When you come to a more evident dirt road, continue to the left until you reach an intersection featuring an aqueduct depot. Head down to the right for a few metres, then turn left onto a flat dirt road. Taking the fork to the left, you could go to the hill above the village of Gottasecca, where there are the remains of an ancient castle, including what’s left of its tower and part of its outer wall. Head down into this characteristic village, but don’t forget to take a look at the bust of Ravina, a poet and patriot of the fight for Italian unification, who was born here two centuries ago. You will also want to see the main street that winds from the main church down through the houses and on to the highway.
Along the way:
Point of interest along the way
Via San Sebastiano