Family Outings - From Castelnuovo DB to Vezzolano
You can reach the famous Romanesque abbey on foot like ancient pilgrims starting from Castelnuovo Don Bosco, passing through a series of little churches, and across panoramic ridges cultivated with vineyards from where your eyes can wander towards the highest peaks, from Monviso to Gran Paradiso up to the Monte Rosa massif.
We start our walk shortly after Castelnuovo Don Bosco, along the SP16 towards Berzano, near the small and delightful Romanesque church dedicated to Saint Eusebio. Right next to the 12th century building our itinerary begins, well-signposted by a panel. The first stretch climbs steeply on a dirt road embedded in a trench and quickly gets to the ridge of the hill where the view appears on the right towards Castelnuovo Don Bosco. The route proceeds with continuous ups and downs on a more open and airy dirt road, always keeping below the edge of the ridge and heading north, guided by the red/white 101 signs and those of the cycle path.
After a first stretch of vineyards and open fields you will reach some houses and the asphalt road. Turn right and turn back slightly (brown signpost). When the road becomes unpaved you turn right, passing through the vineyards and climbing the ridge under which you have just walked and you will reach the little church of Santa Maria di Cornareto, a small sacred building situated up on a panoramic hillock. The church is mentioned in some documents dating back to 1298. The view extends all around and invites you to take a meditative break while the third church of the itinerary is already visible on the following hill.
From Santa Maria you go back along the road you have just walked until you reach a group of houses which you walk by, keeping them to your right. A very short straight road leads to the crossroads that takes you up to the church of San Michele Arcangelo, whose current structure dates back to 1700 although it rises on a pre-existing building already documented in 1205.
After enjoying the building and the view you walk back to the crossroads you just left and move on, with a few ups and downs, passing by another group of houses and again back on asphalt for a short time. You are on the top of a hill where you can see, behind you, the two churches you just visited and, in front of you, your destination with the Vezzolano village.
You walk down up to a pylon where you leave the road and follow a path to the right. After a short descent you face a steep climb that leads, passing through a wood, onto a hill. Follow the traffic signs to the right and after a wide bend go down towards the destination that certainly deserves a more in-depth visit: the Abbey of Santa Maria di Vezzolano which dates back to 1095. The structure skillfully merges Romanesque elements with innovative Gothic elements; a very interesting feature is the pier on small columns (jubè) that divides the nave and is characterized by polychrome bas-reliefs probably dating back to the second half of the 13th century. The well-preserved cloister houses sculpted capitals and a fine cycle of 14th century frescoes.
This is the official story however, according to some popular rumours, the site already existed in the 8th century as the chapel of a disappeared castle. In fact, a legend says it was actually founded by Charlemagne who, in the year 774, was hunting in the woods of Albugnano. The sight of a macabre dance of skeletons caused him a serious epilepsy attack and, once he was healed thanks to the Virgin Mary's intercession, the emperor himself commissioned the construction of the Abbey.
The return walk is on the outward route, or (but only during the school period) it is possible to continue on asphalt to Albugnano (1.7 km) and then use the 2.50 pm Chieri-Castelnuovo bus line.
The route should be avoided after days of heavy rain because of the tenacious mud and because in the final stretch the path is channeled and could turn into a stream. At the beginning of the season it is easy to find brambles along the path, therefore it is better to have a stick to remove them.
Franco Voglino and Annalisa Porporato
Along the way:
Point of interest along the way
Strada per Abbazia di Vezzolano