LAND AND LANDSCAPES
Your properties in the Langhe, the Roero and the Monferrato vineyard landscapes of Piemont, UNESCO's world heritage area.
Discover the territories of Langhe and Monferrato
Gentle hills as far as the eye can see, ancient hamlets and hilltop castles, a succession of mildly inclined slopes with aligned rows of vines, these are the unique ingredients of the enchanting vineyard landscapes of the Langhe, the Roero and the Monferrato that UNESCO has elevated to the rank of a world heritage site.
Spread across the Piemontese provinces of Cuneo, Asti and Alessandria, this is a unqiue combination of varied environments that have been shaped into a harmonius whole by nature and human effort.
In 2014 UNESCO decided that the vineyard landscpaes of the Langhe, the Monferrato and the Roero are worthy of the distinction as World Heritage site. Six separate areas involving 29 different municipalities have been designated in virtue of their history and the inseparable link between man and landscape that they embody; it's a good starting point for a tour to discover the riches whose appeal goes far beyond the confines of Piemont and is being recognized as a world treasure.
Magnificent sites that the UNESCO describes as “an exceptional living example of the historic tradition of wine growing and wine making, of a rural social environment and an economic reality based on the culture of wine”.
“The vineyards of the Langhe, Roero and Monferrato are an outstanding example of the interplay of man and his natural environment”, declares the official explanation of the award.
These are the six distinct areas, each endowed with its own unique character.
- The Langhe of Barolo (extending in the municipalities of Barolo, Serralunga d'Alba, Castiglione Falletto, La Morra, Monforte d'Alba, Novello and Diano d'Alba) finds its expression in the Langhe's arguably finest and most famous product, the Barolo, quite appropriately referred to as “the king of wines and the wine of Kings”. A visit to the Castle of Barolo is a mandatory stop to get to know it better;
- The Castle of Grinzane Cavour in the municipality of the same name, the seat of the Regional Piemontese Wine Cellar;
- The Barbaresco hills (municipalities of Barbaresco, Neive and Treiso) where Nebbiolo grapes are grown to produce Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto and Nebbiolo wines;
- Nizza Monferrato and the Barbera country (municipalities of Nizza Monferrato, Agliano Terme, Moasca, San Marzano Oliveto, Mombaruzzo, Castelnuovo Calcea, Vinchio and Vaglio Serra);
- Canelli and the Asti Spumante (sparkling) area with the municipalities of Canelli, Santo Stefano Belbo and Calosso). In Canelli you may visit the underground dome halls of the historic wineries producing sparkling wines;
- The Monferrato of the Infernot grottoes (municipalities of Vignale Monferrato, Montemagno, Cella Monte, Ozzano Monferrato, Rosignano Monferrato, Ottiglio, Olivola, Frassinello Monferrato, Camagna Monferrato): the infernot are underground grotto-like cellars excavated in the limestone and used for storing wine bottles..
The area of the Langhe extends across the provinces of Cuneo and Asti and is famous worldwide for its distinguished wines, for its culinary specialities among which the white Truffle is one of the most remarkable, attracting ever increasing numbers of visitors to the region.
Some of the world's finest wines are being produced in the region, among them Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Moscato and Dolcetto.
Among the hamlets, Barolo, surrounded by its vineyards, is one of the most famous. The castle of the Marchesi Falletti of Barolo housing the Wine Museum is a trademark of the village. Close to the castle another museum recounts the history of the corkscrew.
Besides its wine and culinary allure, Barolo has built a considerable cultural reputation thanks to the recurring “agri-rock” music festival “Collisioni” where stars like Elton John, Patty Smith, Bob Dylan, Jamiroquay, Neil Young, Deep Purple, Sting, Mark Knopfler and many others have performed.
Among the other must-see towns of the Langhe let's mention Monforte d'Alba and Neive, both included in the list of Italy's most picturesque villages.
Monforte d'Alba is a small, enchanting village in commanding position with fabulous views onto the Alps. It is one the 11 municipalities where Barolo wine is produced. On the hilltop in the center of Monforte a natural amphitheater with outstanding acoustics was inaugurated in 1986 by the famous pianist Mieczysław Horszowski. Arranged in steps with a stage that includes parts of the enclosing wall and gate of the Scarampi gardens, the amphitheater has been a venue for performances by famous artists like Paolo Conte, Massimo Ranieri, Jerry Mulligan, Vinicio Capossela and others and since several years it regularly hosts the Monforteinjazz music festival.
The hills and vineyards around Neive are crisscrossed by marked foot, bicycle and horse trails.
It is noo surprise that Neive is included in the list of Italy's most picturesque villages. It is enough to take one look at the Medieval core of the village with its red-roofed houses leaning against each other and overlooking cobbled lanes. A closer look will discover genuine treasures from the past, the Clock Tower which is the last remnant of the ancient castle, the baroque seat of the archconfraternity of San Michele with its precious wooded gate, the Cotto house with its precious ceilings and 13 century fireplaces.
Outside of the village along the Tinella stream on the road to Mango a Romanic belltower belonging to the church of Santa Maria del Piano arises in the countryside.
Of course there are other towns which are equally interesting such as Alba, the capital of the white truffle and home to many interesting historic monuments starting from Roman times, further La Morra from whose main square one can admire fabulous vistas of the Langhe hills, Dogliani known as the home of Dolcetto wine and many others.
The Langhe themselves may be divided into two quite distinct landscapes:
- On the one hand the Lower Langhe (Bassa Langa) to the North and West which is marked by the presence of vineyards;
- The High Langhe (Alta Langa) to the South and East which is a landscape marked mostly by hazel groves, woods and pastures. Here the landscape is more pristine and thus beloved by lovers of nature and outdoor activities. More recently vineyards are making a comeback in some areas of the Alta Langa, producing a remarkable sparkling wine quite able to compete with Champagne. The main, most distinctive municipalities of the Alta Langa are Bossolasco, Murazzano, Cortemilia, Niella Belbo, Bergolo among many.
The predominantly hilly area of the Monferrato is contained within the provinces of Alessandria and Asti and extends all the way to the Ligurian Apennines that border on the provinces of Genoa and Savona. It's home to such famous wines as Moscato and Barbera.
The plain of Alessandria (the historic plain of the Marengo battle) divides the Monferrato into Lower (north) and Upper Monferrato (south, at a higher altitude above sea level), bordering on one side on the Alta Langa and on another on the Apennine. A landscape of hills with enchanting villages and small hamlets guarded by hilltop castles.
Asti is a major town and a destination worth a trip for its own sake. Its medieval core contains many architectural gems. The town is an important center of wine making and stages its own celebrations of the truffle, the area's foremost culinary delicacy, but the main event is undobtedly its Palio, the traditional horse race held in the town's center in September. Asti's historic sights include the San Secondo collegiate church, the Cathedral, the medieval “Rotonda di San Pietro” complex and the sumptuous Mazzetti palace, home of the town's museum.
Casale Monferrato, capital of the Basso Monferrato is set along the Po river which offers many fine views onto the landscape. The town itself contains treasures like the Cathedral with its unique layout, the Paleologue castle, the Bistolfi plaster cast gallery containing the local artist's works. In the hills around Casale Monferrato we find Vignale Monferrato with a superb wine cellar housed in the ancient manor house. The Basso Monferrato is home to one of Italy's most remerkable castles, the castle of Camino. The Uviglio castle in Rosignano Monferrato with outstanding vistas of the Piemontese countryside is equally worthy of mention. Having become a wine farm it played an eminent role in reviving the production of traditional grape varieties like the Monferrato Barbera DOC, the Grignolino of Casale Monferrato, the Monferrato Freisa and the Piemontese Chardonnay.
On the border between Piemont and Liguria begins the Upper Monferrato (Alto Monferrato) which includes three areas: the Monferrato of Acqui, famous for its Moscato and Bracchetto wines and containing interesting Roman vestiges in the capital town of Acqui Terme; the Ovada area with hills topped by many ancient castles (Rocca Grimalda, Orsara Bormida, Tagliolo, Trisobbio). A disctinctive manor is the Montaldeo of the Doria family, currently inhabited by a descendant of the famous Andrea Doria. The castle and the hamlet form a whole and command their surroundings. Finally the Castelletto d'Orba which includes two manors, the upper Tower and the Castle surrounded by the village. In the area of Novi Ligure we find the castle of Tassarolo and San Cristoforo of the Spinola family and finally Gavi with its fortress. Both Novi and Gavi are known for their white wines and their confectionery.
The entire Monferrato area is home to fine wines and genuine culinary delicacies. A trip along its scenic roads is an excellent occasion to savour both in the many wine cellars and trattorias scattered everywhere throughout these gentle hills.
The Roero is the area to the North of the town of Alba, extending between the plain of Carmagnola to the North and the hills around Asti to the South.
Compared to other wine areas in the region the Roero is characterized by a particular natural variety with vineyards alternating with woods, orchards and hazel groves. One of the distinctive natural sights of the Roero are the so-called Rocche (calanques), steep cliffs which cross the area from south-west to north-east, from Pocapaglia to Montà, dividing soils of continental origin from soils of marine origin which are particularly suitable for growing vines.
The town of Bra is considered the capital of the Roero and is the birthplace of the Slow Food movement, which now spans the world and aims to favour the rediscovery of traditional culinary specialities and tastes which are typical of a given area. With its many palaces and churches, Bra is one of the major centers of Piemontese baroque architecture.
The town of Canale is considered the heart of the Roero and boasts many fine wine cellars and traditional shops selling local specialties. Of the circular walls that enclosed the “new town” only one 12th century tower has remained and has subsequently been raised to accomodate the belltower. A trading town from its very beginning Canale has been a wine making center for a long time. In the early 20th century, while new diseases befell the vines, peaches have become another major agricultural product of the area.
With 63% of its area covered by vineyards Castellinaldo is currently the Roero's most important wine municipality. Looking at the slopes and the valleys with their rows of vines one can appreciate the beauty that is being created by this activity. The wineries and the local “Bottega del Vino" (wine shop) invite for a tasting of one of the area's excellent drops. Vegetables and fruit add to the varied produce that the region has to offer. A partcular and quite extraordinary local event is the square boules tournament. A petanque-like game played with square boules, eminently suitable for the steep lanes of the village.
The village of Guarene boasts the most elegant village core of all Roero towns. Set above the village is the Roero castle from the 1700's, a baroque architectural gem projected and built by count Carlo Giacinto Roero.
Many other villages that are part of the Roero like Monticello d'Alba, Monteu Roero or Magliano Alfieri are worth a visit for the beauty of the surrounding countryside and the unalloyed charm of these ancient hamlets.