Roero of Canale
Canale is the biggest village in the Roero area, the only one which is almost completely surrounded by rows of vines, located at the junction of several valleys and many communication routes. Canale is therefore an excellent starting point to explore the eastern Roero, between Borbore and Tanaro.
The village retains the original villanova plan with part of the city walls, the municipal Tower (today it is the bell tower of San Giovanni) and the beautiful Malabaila Castle with its centuries-old park. In the grip plan of the old town (chessboard-shaped) it is worth visiting two baroque churches: the parish Church of San Vittore, the Confraternity of San Bernardino and then stroll under the porticoes of the high street, with an inevitable stop at the Enoteca Regionale (Regional Wine Centre) del Roero. Canale is also well-known for its peaches and for its excellent fruit and vegetable market where all the traditional products of the Roero are gathered.
We leave Canale along the old road to Turin and climb up to Montà (linkage between Rocche and Pianalto), with its private Castle and tall municipal Tower, a place full of surprises. First there is the Strada del Miele, the Honey Road, (a delicious local speciality), then the equally charming route of Piedmont's smallest Holy Mount, known as Sacro Monte dei Piloni, which starts from the ancient Church of SS. Giacomo and Filippo and runs through plaster statues and 13 hexagonal chapels up to the miniature copy of the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem Lastly, there is the very dynamic and ever-expanding Ecomuseo delle Rocche (Rocche del Roero Ecomuseum), a true driving force behind green trails, events, active tourism and the rediscovery of the Roero's historical roots.
The route then zigzags over the moraine of Pianalto, towards Cellarengo passing through San Vito and the Valle del Morto. From Cellarengo you descend towards Ferrere along a charming green ridge, another village dedicated to beekeeping as well as vines. The Castelvecchio (today’s Town Hall), Castelrosso and the San Secondo panoramic point on the opposite hill are worth a mention.
A nice shady road through the woods now takes us to Cisterna d'Asti, whose unconquerable Rocca houses one of the best-preserved castles in the area; inside there is the Museo Arti e Mesteri di un Tempo (Museum of Arts and Crafts of bygone days) with a beautiful collection of items (dating back to the 17th and 20th centuries). Cisterna also gives its name to the homonymous DOC wine, made from Croatina grapes, which can be tasted in the local Bottega del Vino (Wine Shop). The path that from Cisterna d'Asti takes us back to Canale is by far one of the most scenic of the whole Roero!
Passing through San Matteo and heading towards the nearby San Damiano d'Asti (it.Romanesque in and around San Damiano d’Asti), the route then climbs the opposite bank of the Borbore river, passing below the Castle of Lavezzole, to finally reach San Martino Alfieri. The Castle, with Courten's beautiful English-style park, is privately owned, but it preserves around it a hamlet consisting largely of its outbuildings. The Bottega del Vino (Wine Shop) in the Town Hall and Garibaldi's house in the hamlet of Saracchi are also worth a visit. San Martino Alfieri is also the town of Giuseppe Marello, social saint and founder of the Oblates of San Giuseppe.
Opposite, just a stone's throw away, is the virtually twin village of Govone, dominated by the imposing Royal Castle that was the residence of Charles Felix, the last member of the Savoy dynasty. Today one of its wings houses the Town Hall: it features some remarkable Chinese rooms, an impressive reception hall and an entrance staircase with Juvarra-style grotesques and telamons; the rose park is also beautiful, as is the terrace/belvedere overlooking the village which has been created above the old stables.
Once past San Pietro the route reaches Priocca, where the Romanesque parish Church of San Vittore and a stop at the Wine Experience Museum are well worthwhile, before you proceed and go down into the beautiful valley towards Castellinaldo. The small village is known for the beautiful atmosphere of its mediaeval old town enlcosed by the Damiano Castle, for its vineyards which prefer Barbera to Arneis - the dynamic Bottega del Vino (Wine Shop) is worth a visit - for the curious tradition of Bocce Quadre and, above all, for the country church of San Servasio (frescoes dating from 1581), which borders with Vezza d'Alba and Castagnito.
The route heads along a relaxing secondary road to Magliano Alfieri, dominated by the mighty Castle of the Alfieri di Sostegno family, which completely overlooks the Tanaro valley. Today it is home to the Town Hall, the nice Museo di Arti e Tradizioni Popolari (Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions), where you can discover the plaster ceilings typical of this area between the Roero and Monferrato, as well as the multimedia Museum "Teatro del Paesaggio" (Landscape Theatre). The panoramic viewpoint set on top of the castle gardens is equally beautiful.
Another stunning place to enjoy a moment of airy contemplation is in near Castagnito, whose upper part (where Castel Verde once stood) still dominates the two valleys (Tanaro and Borbore); furthermore, the curiously sloping baroque Church of San Bernardo di Chiaravalle, located near San Giuseppe, is also of particular interest.
From here, the high ridge that leads to Guarene is yet again a very scenic route, with the panoramic view overlooking the Provana Castle, a grand Baroque palace built on the ruins of the Roero stronghold, now privately owned. A must-see is also the Italian-style garden overlooking the Tanaro valley, just opposite Barbaresco (it. Langa of Barbaresco). The village is very pretty, with narrow streets that go down from the castle or up from the provincial road to meet in the square with the imposing Church of SS Annunziata (featuring two paintings by Moncalvo), the Pinacoteca Civica del Roero (Roero Municipal Art Gallery) and the remarkable Town Hall, the heart of the village. Another must-see is the beautiful Palazzo Re Rebaudengo, now an artist's residence and home to contemporary art exhibitions by the Fondazione Sandretto. Contemporary art can also be admired in the open air, thanks to the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Art Park.
Next, our route passes through the hamlet of Madernassa, which gives its name to the much-appreciated homonymous pear which is ideal to be cooked in wine, to descend along the Borbore river and climb up to the last village on the top: Vezza d’Alba. The Museo Naturalistico del Roero (Roero Nature Museum) is useful to learn more about the flora and fauna of the Rocche biotope, as is the Educational Truffle Ground, which reminds us of the local truffle-growing tradition. Today there is only a stump of the tower left in the ancient defence fortress, nonetheless, it offers an unprecedented view of the upper Roero; the baroque Confraternity of the Battuti (which is currently known as San Bernardino) is quite interesting and the Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Boschi is also worth a visit.
The charming Val Rubiagno route takes us back to Canale, through woods, vineyards and cornfields.
Texts by Pietro Giovannini
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