The Langa of Barolo
The most famous hills of the Langhe are a crown decorated with castles and its most precious gem lies in the middle: Barolo.
Starting point of this long tour is Grinzane Cavour, with its Castle, a historical monument of national importance. It is a place that opens the heart and mind and will take you back in time, when Camillo Benso planned a thousand reforms, right from here, and dreamt of a united Italy. Not to be missed, alongside the Museo delle Langhe (Museum of the Langhe), is Piedmont's first Piedmont's first Enoteca Regionale (Regional Wine Centre), since 1967, and the In Vigna Open Air Museum).
Next, you go up to an altitude of 500 metres in Diano d’Alba, a superb balcony to enjoy a complete view of the whole area from above. A unique Dolcetto wine, which has earned the DOCG label, is also produced here, and you can taste it in the Cantina Comunale (Municipal Wine Cellar). The route continues to Montelupo Albese (where the Lupus in Fabula walk in the centre is worth a visit) which, with nearby Rodello, is on the border of the wine-growing Langa, to descend through a steep and almost wild slope to Sinio, a beautiful medieval castle village.
The route then goes up over the upper Serralunga d'Alba hill which will seem both unexpected and almost surreal in its timeless charm. A tall medieval fortress overlooks a hamlet with a few houses clustered around its ramparts. The village is intact: you enter on foot through the city gate and walk through it with wonder and without haste. The landscape you walk through fully justifies the UNESCO recognition as the small hamlets of Castelletto and Perno di Monforte d'Alba stand out on the other hillside through castles, Romanesque churches and tiny villages. Below, in the small valley, you will find the royal estate of Fontanafredda, buen retiro of Victor Emmanuel II far away from state affairs. Once you reach Roddino, you have to stop and fill your eyes with the view over the whole DOCG area which looks completely different from here.
The route then descends gently towards Monforte d'Alba, one of the liveliest villages in the whole Langa of Barolo, with its old town restored in every detail, the steep alleyways leading up to the top of the bric where the former castle, whose beautiful bell tower still remains, has been replaced by a magnificent open-air auditorium, summer venue for international Jazz Sessions. Not to miss also the Museo Civico (Civic Museum) "Colonello Martina" to know the history of the first years of the united Italy. From Monforte d'Alba the Langa of Dolcetto (see itinerary Langa of Dolcetto) appears westwards, while southwards you enter the Alta Langa of Belbo (see itinerary Alta Langa of Belbo), whose dark outline is reflected in the snow-white chain of the Alps.
Since we have nearly covered half the circle of the crown, we just have to pass through Castiglione Falletto (another turreted village with a mighty private Fortress and an efficient Cantina Comunale -Municipal Wine Cellar), cross the famous Bussia hill and finally descend towards Barolo. The Castle of the patron and philanthropist Marquise Juliette Colbert, last heir of the Falletti dynasty, has medieval features and a Juvarra-style façade with a monumental staircase. Today the castle is home to the futuristic Wi-Mu Museo del Vino (Wine Museum), while beyond the entrance arch you will also find the engaging Museo dei Cavatappi (Corkscrew Museum with unexpected trivia about this essential item. The Enoteca Regionale (Regional Wine Centre) of Barolo is another secular temple where you can worship Bacchus. The rest of the village switches easily from the Middle Ages to the 19th century with a typical all-Savoy detachment from the fame which surrounds it today.
The climb that leads up to the top with a few sharp hairpin turns overlooks the Novello-La Morra ridge, another invaluable panoramic viewpoint which can be walked on level ground. You should go to Novello first, to discover a pretty village that has remained suspended between the Middle Ages of its forms and the Baroque of its churches and on which the Castle, a neo-Gothic masterpiece by Schellino, stands out. In its Bottega del Vino (Wine Shop) you will find Nas-cetta, a native grape variety that will surprise you. Then you get to La Morra passing through the small hamlet of Vergne, enjoying the view of the classic local crus. The queen of Barolo features a chequered medieval village sloping towards the famous Piazza del Belvedere and a very lively tourist life. The old town should be explored on foot, with an essential stop at the Cantina Comunale (Municipal Wine Cellar). Of all the many attractions in the hamlets, a stop at the "Cappella del Barolo" by Tremlett and Sol LeWitt, now one of the Langhe's photographic griffes, is a must.
From the village you can easily descend to Cherasco (see itinerary The “secret” treasures of Cherasco), a villanova of great history and nobility, or to Verduno, with its romantic belvedere and the Cantina Comunale (Municipal Wine Cellar). Then, there are the spicy scents of rose, violet and pepper of Pelaverga, another rare native grape variety, but this time it is red and aromatic. A must-see is also the neo-Gothic village of Pollenzo below, with its Università di Scienze Gastromiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences) and Banca del Vino (Wine Bank). Finally, on your way back, you get to Roddi. Its Castle towers over the village nestled at its feet: it houses an area dedicated to truffles and a kitchen especially set up for gastronomic classes and events. From Roddi you can overlook Grinzane Cavour, the final destination of our itinerary.
Texts by Pietro Giovannini
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Point of interest along the way
Barolo and Juliette Colbert
Juliette Colbert was born in the Vendée, the region brutalized by French revolutionaries who killed more than 300,000, mostly civilians. Her grandmother, like many of her family, had been guillotined during the Terror but she took refuge in Holland. Napoleon introduced her to her future husband, the Marquis Carlo Tancredi Falletti, the last scion of one of the richest dynasties in Piedmont. At the time of The Restoration, she and her husband moved to Turin and Barolo, where she had the insight to so name that so-special wine produced in its lands. She was beautiful and cultured but, instead of devoting herself to dancing and luxuries, devoted her entire life to works of charity. It was the lament of a prisoner who asked for soup instead of prayers which marked her forever: thanks to her position and knowledge she was appointed Superintendent of Prisons by Carlo Felice, beginning an extraordinary programme of improvements in the prison system, especially for women's prisons. Then came shelters for the homeless, soup kitchens, schools for ex-prisoners and single mothers, the first nursery in Italy. As a widow, she continued her work until the end, founding the Opera Pia Barolo and spending all of the fabulous wealth of the Falletti, 12 million lire, the budget of a state, to help the poor.
Verduno and Carlo Alberto
Carlo Alberto was a great king, not for his battles (he was defeated and exiled) but for his deep innovative strength. The ideas of his youth remained in embryo in him and in his friends and, when he unexpectedly came to the throne, a new generation of politicians and thinkers took power in Turin. The most important fruit of this was the Albertine Statute, the basis of our Constitution, which was the first (after Poland) and most modern constitution of the time. Carlo Alberto also found time to devote to agricultural modernization with the founding of the Agenzia di Pollenzo (where now stands the University of Gastronomic Sciences), experimentation upon Spumante and Vermouth in Santa Vittoria (whose historic monumental cellars are amazing) and the production of Barolo, his faithful winemaker Staglieno in Verduno where he acquired the castle in 1838. In those cellars Barolo is still produced, while in a mirror in the dining room (now the castle is a charming hotel-restaurant) one can still read his signature and those of all the guests invited to some-or-other reception.
5 Via Castello
5 Via Castello