The territory bordering the Turin-Piacenza section is certainly very attractive.
This culturally rich area offers top level sporting facilities, artistic heritage and food and wine, set against the magnificent natural background which boasts numerous protected areas.
By clicking on the menu on the left, you can find out all the possibilities you can to discover new itineraries just a stone's throw from the local motorway exits.
ALBA AND THE LANGHE
Recommended exit station: A21 – Asti Est
A tour of the town
A tour of the town
The towers in the historic centre of Alba were built in the 14th and 15th centuries by the city's noble families.
At one time, Alba apparently had as many as one hundred.
Now, only around twenty are left.
From Piazza Duomo, three are visible, the highest and best preserved: the Sineo, Paruzza and Astesiano towers.
There are also numerous churches in the old town: Saint Laurence's cathedral, the Temple of Saint Paul, and the Saint Dominic and Magdalene churches.
The Alba Truffle Show
The truffle show was first held in 1929 with the rather unwieldy Italian name of "Fiera-Mostra campionaria a premi dei rinomati tartufi delle Langhe", as an extension of the agricultural and industrial fair which had been held in Alba since the turn of the century.
The promoters had realised that truffles, if suitably promoted, could become a draw for all the local craft and agricultural producers.
Today, the show has changed completely and is full of cultural events and exhibitions.
The Langhe and Roero Castles
A characteristic of the Langhe and the Roero, the agricultural areas of which Alba is the "capital", is the numerous castles and mediaeval residences dotted around them.
The town of Grinzane is known for the castle of Count Cavour, which currently houses the Enoteca Regionale Piemontese Cavour wine shop.
The building also houses a permanent museum with Cavour family heirlooms and an ethnographic museum.
It is a structure with a quadrilateral plan, whose origins date back to 1200.
Pollenzo houses the hunting estate of Victor Emmanuel II, while the castle of Charles Albert is in Verduno.
In Magliano Alfieri is the feudal residence of Vittorio Alfieri, a 12th-century castle which belonged to the Roero family of Vezza and the Alfieri family of Asti.
The Cherasco castle was built in 1348: an imposing, square-plan building, with towers in the four corners and a smaller one at the entrance with a drawbridge.
The Cravanzana castle was built in the 17th century on the ruins of an older castle, and completed by the east wing in the next century.
Having passed to the Savoy, in 1731 Charles Emmanuel III gave it to his minister Marquis Gian Giacomo Fontana.
The Govone castle belonged to the Savoy from 1792 to 1870, and was made famous by the 1730 stay of J. J. Rousseau, in the service of Count Ottavio Solaro.
The Serralunga castle was built in around 1340, on a previous fortification.
It has three asymmetrical towers: one round, one square and one terraced.
Among the 18th-century castles, Guarene is worth a mention.
There are also two renaissance castles in Canale and Montà.
The tower of the Corneliano d'Alba castle is also interesting for its twelve-sided façade.
How to get to Alba
A21, exit Asti Est, superstrada clearway towards Alba.
A21, uscita Asti Est, superstrada per Alba.
Recommended exit station: A21 – Asti Est, Asti Ovest
A tour of the town
Church of Saint Secundus (San
In the middle ages, it was known as the church of Saint Secundus of the Merchants.
It was built on the burial place of the patron saint of the city, immediately outside the Roman walls.
Architecture: crypt, composed of the primitive aedicule (8th century).
Romanesque bell tower (10th century) from the church later replaced by the current Gothic building (13th-14th century).
Romanesque-style façade (15th century).
Chapel of Saint Secundus (right-hand nave), designed by Bernardo Vittone (18th century).
Polyptych (Adoration of the Magi), Gandolfino da Roreto (15th-16th century).
Saint Secundus in gloria, Stefano Tofanelli (late 18th century).
Madonna of the Rosary, school of the painter Guglielmo Caccia known as "il Moncalvo" (17th century).
Frescoes, S. Bianchi (18th century).
Palazzo Alfieri (Corso Alfieri, 375)
Birthplace of Vittorio Alfieri.
The original mediaeval construction was renovated by Benedetto Alfieri around 1738.
Adaptations were made between 1901 and 1903 by Leonetto Ottolenghi, alongside renovations to the adjoining square.
The building currently houses the Alfieriano Museum, the Centro Nazionale di Studi Alfieriani, the Biblioteca Astense library and the Istituto per la Storia della Resistenza e della Società (institute for the history of the resistance and society)
Cathedral (Piazza Cattedrale)
The most significant example of Piedmontese Gothic, it was built in the early 14th century by local craftsmen at the behest of bishop Arnaldo De Rosette, originally from Saintonge (Western France).
The building is inspired by French architectural and decorative models.
South vestibule: decorated mainly with zoomorphic and vegetative motifs from local tradition (14th century).
Romanesque bell tower (mid-13th century).
Vestries, built following the lengthening of the building designed by Bernardo Vittone.
Inside we find 15th and 16th century paintings: Gandolfino da Roreto's Madonna of the "Banker", the Marriage of the Virgin, the Genealogy of the Virgin, the Deposition.
There are also some works of Guglielmo Caccia known as "il Moncalvo": the Resurrection (16th-17th century).
Francesco Fabrica and G. Battista Rocca in the naves, the transept and the lantern tower; Carlo Carloni and G. Perego for the apses.
By Francesco Bassano, known as "il Bassanino":
Adoration of the Magi (late 16th century).
the Asti Palio is one of the most important events in Piedmont, and the second most important Palio in Italy after that of Siena, despite being a few years older (going back to 1275).
It takes place the third Sunday of September in Piazza Vittorio Alfieri, with the participants numbering 21 horses ridden bareback by as many jockeys, representing the 14 city boroughs and the 7 towns of the province.
In reality, the events linked to the Palio continue for the rest of the year, representing a moment of coming together and tradition which has very few equals in Italy.
The Assedio di Canelli (June) is a festival in which a historical reconstruction is made to come alive in an authentic manner by popular involvement, where over two thousand people in seventeenth-century costumes recreate the 1613 siege of Canelli for two days.
The "Premio Douja d'Or" prize is the national wine competition for DOC and DOCG (AOC) certified wines, organised during September by the Asti chamber of commerce, with technical collaboration from the Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori di Vino (national wine tasters' organisation).
How to get to Asti
A21, exit Asti Est, Asti Ovest.
Recommended exit station: A21 – Asti Est
Ancient capital of the Monferrato, Casale is one of the most interesting cities of art in Piedmont.
A tour of the town
In Piazza Castello is the ancient Maniero dei Gonzaga.
Traces of a defensive structure on the site of the current fort date back to the end of the first millennium.
The Maniero was built in the mid 14th century by Marquis Giovanni II Paleologo, and was later extended by Guglielmo VIII Paleologo and Bonifacio V. In the mid 16th century it passed to the Gonzagas, who accentuated its defensive nature by strengthening its fortifications, before it was destroyed after around a century.
Around Piazza Carlo Alberto we can find the Saint Evasio cathedral, or Duomo, with its characteristic asymmetrical Romanesque façade, whose foundation dates back to the time of the Lombard king Liutprando (712-744).
Also impressive is the fourteenth-century Palazzo del Carretto, built by the marquises of the same name and restored at the beginning of the century.
In the courtyard you will find an elegant well and an impressive colonnade.
Not to be missed are the church of Saint Michael: octagonal in shape, it has frescoed cupolas and paintings by Guglielmo Caccia (known as il Moncalvo); and Santa Caterina, a Baroque church with splendid frescoes.
The sixteenth-century church of Saint Dominic contains large canvasses by Pietro Francesco Guala.
Monferrato, Land of Wine
Monferrato Casalese is one of the oldest wine-growing areas in Piedmont: production is concentrated in 34 small towns, with 17 DOC (AOC) wines of which 5 are exclusive production from the south-west hills of the Po.
In Monferrato there are more than 300 winemakers, six co-operatives and a Regional Enoteca, or wine shop.
Most of the production is based on the two most typical varieties of the area, Barbera and Grignolino.
Eight towns of Monferrato Casalese produce around 25% of the Province's DOC Barbera.
The Grignolino of Monferrato Casalese has 80% of its production concentrated in eleven towns.
The two largest wine-growing centres of the area are Vignale and Rosignano.
How to get to Casale Monferrato
A21, exit Asti Est; Superstrada clearway towards Casale Monferrato.
Castelnuovo Don Bosco
Recommended exit station: Villanova d'Asti
A tour of the town
Castelnuovo Don Bosco is situated on a 240m tall hill. The town – previously named Castelnuovo d'Asti – contains various mediaeval towers as well as some other important buildings from different eras, such as Villa Filippello in liberty style.
The main square contains a statue of Saint John Bosco by the sculptor Stuardi (1898).
In the hamlet of Becchi you will find evidence of the life of the saint and his commitment to youths, in particular his birthplace and the large complex of both church and lay constructions which make this one of the most important centres of Salesian activity.
The hub of this architectural complex is the Sanctuary which includes the upper and lower church.
The structure also contains a missionary museum and a series of buildings housing schools, workshops, sports and recreational facilities.
As well as the religious events held in the sanctuary, of note are the Feste di San Rocco, held around the mid-August bank holiday, with dancing, games and horse races.
In November there is the truffle festival, and the last Monday in November sees the ancient commercial fair of Saint Andrew.
Moreover, the suggestive procession of Saint James is held every 25th of July in the hamlet of Mondonio.
Saint John Bosco
Don Bosco was born in Castelnuovo d'Asti, today called Castelnuovo Don Bosco, on 16 August 1815.
Ordained to the priesthood in Turin in 1841, he began his pastoral activity with Saint Joseph Cafasso.
Throughout his life he distinguished himself with his commitment towards the young, in particular the poor and abandoned.
He was responsible for the Oratorio di S. Francesco di Sales recreation centre which became a place for young people to come together on a Sunday and spend a fun day.
He also founded art and vocational schools for young workers and regular schools for the study of humanities.
He founded the Pia Società di S. Francesco di Sales (the Salesians) and the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco.
A writer himself, he set up typographic schools, magazines and publishing houses; he also acted as an intermediary between the Holy See, the Italian Government and the House of Savoy.
Don Bosco died on 31 January 1888, and was canonized by Pius XI in 1934.
How to get to Castelnuovo Don Bosco
A21, exit Villanova d'Asti; Strada Provinciale 19 towards Castelnuovo Don Bosco.
Recommended exit station: Asti Est
Sacro Monte (443m asl) is located near the northern limit of Monferrato, in a splendid natural setting: verdant hills covered with vines and woods, with the Po plain in the background, encircled by the Alps and the Monferrato hills as far as the Ligurian Apennines.
In 1980, a regional law established the "Parco Naturale e area attrezzata del Sacro Monte di Crea" natural park, composed of 47 hectares (116 acres) of largely wooded terrain.
This law recognised the cultural value of the natural park, with the aim of protecting and improving the landscape, the church, the convent and the chapels. The locality owes its origins to Saint Eusebius, who was sent in the fourth century to convert north-west Piedmont, and to do this created oratories in the area where the Vestal virgins most commonly gathered.
It was King Arduin of Italy who, in the early eleventh century, wanted the place to have a genuine church of its own able to host the increasing numbers of pilgrims.
This led to the creation of a small church and an Augustinian convent.
In the late 15th century the complex became property of the Laterans, who began restructuring and enlarging it.
A century later more extensive renovations began, following which the building acquired its definitive Baroque architecture.
The sanctuary was therefore built over three different periods: the original Eusebian structure was located in the area which now houses the altar of the Madonna of Crea; the renaissance section has the largest number of features, perhaps most notable the chapel of Saint Margaret; while the Baroque construction, started in 1612, made modifications to the size of the central nave and the design of the façade.
Near the sanctuary is the Sacro Monte.
Built in 1589 by order of Costantino Massimo, it contains twenty-three chapels and five hermitages, inside which the mysteries of the rosary are narrated.
Many artists participated in the creation of the complex, including the Wespin brothers, known as the Tabacchetti, il Moncalvo, and Paolo Giovenone.
The main point of this route is the chapel of the Assumption of the Virgin, commissioned from the Tabacchetti and Frescoed by il Moncalvo.
How to get to the Crea Sanctuary
A4, Boffalora exit.
Recommended exit station: Piacenza Ovest
Grazzano Visconti is a "city of art" in the province of Piacenza: this title has adorned the little hamlet since 1986, as craftworks in wood, iron and ceramics continue there after many centuries.
In 1386 Gian Galeazzo Visconti laid the first stone of the Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) and also authorised construction of another work: the Grazzano castle, around which the hamlet subsequently developed.
The occasion for the construction of this edifice was the marriage of his sister Beatrice to Giovanni Anguissola.
In the 20th century, significant reconstruction and renovation works gave Grazzano the elegant aspect of a mediaeval city which it retains to this day.
The village, aside from the castle, boasts the Corte Vecchia, a monastery (pre-1000 AD), the Palazzo dell'Istituzione and the Biscione hotel.
The houses of Grazzano have frescoes on their exterior walls, which are all the work of Giuseppe Visconti, also designer of the Grazzano costumes.
A mediaeval festival, held every year in May, commemorates the arrival in Grazzano in 1389 of Valentina Visconti di Asti, received from the noble Piedmontese families.
A pageant commemorates the historic episode, followed by the ancient house's equestrian tournament.
The castle was designed on a square plan, with four towers in the corners, two circular and two square.
Inside the body of the building is a square courtyard surrounded by colonnades.
A large moat surrounds the castle.
The construction layout is typical of the period in which it was built, and bears witness to the viscounty's influence in the area.
La Cortevecchia is an "agriturismo" or farm holiday and food area, covering 7,000 m2, largely given over to green areas and freely accessible paths.
The buildings bear witness to the peasant civilisation of decades past, and indeed retain their characteristics which blend in with the hamlet of Grazzano Visconti.
The Grazzano Visconti "style"
In the early years of the twentieth century the creative craftsmanship appeared which would give life to the "Grazzano style" furniture whose forms hark back to the 15th century.
It is a style dominated by bas-relief with very deep and tight cuts, with figures first drawn on the board and then carved by hand.
The Grazzano Visconti furniture craftsmen remain faithful to this style.
The most famous workshops include: the historical ones of Pietro Borlenghi, Leonardo Borlenghi, Francesco Muselli, Antonio Risposi, Savino Tinelli and Renzo Magnani.
How to get to Grazzano Visconti
A21 – exit Piacenza Ovest
SS. di Val Nure until you reach the town.
Recommended exit station: Voghera, Casteggio, Broni Stradella
The Oltrepò Pavese – also known as "Old Piedmont" – is a wedge of Lombardy territory between Emilia and Piedmont, specifically between the provinces of Alessandria and Piacenza.
Split from the rest of the province of Pavia by the Po, it extends for around 1100 km2, of which a third is plain and two thirds hills and mountains.
Its "capital" is Voghera.
The area is known for its wines, and the sought-after fruit from the hills it is known for.
The wines of the Oltrepò Pavese
The origins of viticulture in the Oltrepò Pavese are as old as the hills, so to speak, being mentioned by classical Roman and Greek writers.
Today, with 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) of vineyards, the Oltrepò is unique in Italy for its production of DOC (AOC) wines.
Twenty wines have been awarded this protective classification.
The most important are:
Bonarda, Barbera, Pinot Nero (pinot noir, used to make both red and white wines), Riesling Italico and Renano Moscato.
Colonisation of the Oltrepò began in the first millennium BCE, by Gallic and Ligurian peoples.
From 238 BCE the Romans began to progressively conquer the area, founding numerous settlements.
The Oltrepò was later subjected to new invasions, including the sack of Iria (modern-day Voghera) by Attila the Hun's armies.
The area followed the historical and political events of the Duchy of Milan, from which it separated in 1743 following the Treaty of Worms.
Following this, it was removed from the political control of Pavia, becoming part of Piedmontese territory under the House of Savoy.
Things to see:
The area boasts innumerable castles, almost all mediaeval (including those of Cigognola, Montalto Pavese, Nazzano, Soriasco), churches (including those of Broni, Casteggio, Rocca Susello), and natural resources (including the Giardino Botanico Alpino di Pietra Corva botanical garden in Romagnese, the Parco Lacustre park in Lungavilla, the Parco Naturale le Folaghe natural park in Casei Gerola).
How to get to the Oltrepò Pavese
A21 – exit Voghera, Casteggio and Broni Stradella.
Recommended exit station: Casteggio – Stradella
Founded more than two millennia ago, Pavia is located on the left bank of the Ticino river, and boasts a rich historical and artistic heritage.
The Visconteo Castle
Located in the north of the city, it was founded by Galeazzo II Visconti in the second half of the 14th century. Today it houses the Civic Museums.
Near the castle is the Basilica of St. Peter in the Gold Sky (12th Century): a typical example of Pavian Romanesque architecture, it houses the remains of Saint Augustine, Severino Boezio and the Lombard king Liutprando.
Just past Piazza da Vinci, near the University, you can catch a glimpse of three mediaeval towers: at one time they were much more numerous, and Pavia was known as the "City of the Hundred Towers".
In Piazza della Vittoria you will find the Broletto – dating back to the 12th-13th century and municipal seat until 1875 – Palazzo de' Diversi (14th century), and il Duomo (the cathedral), begun in the second half of the 15th century by Cardinal Ascanio Sforza.
The cupola is the third largest in Italy.
Near the riverfront is the church of Saint Michael, whose artistic value resonates on a European level.
The basilica is particularly old, with the first mention of it coming from Paolo Diacono in 642 CE.
Outside of the historic centre are the churches of Saint Lanfranco and Saint Lazarus, both Romanesque.
The first, situated west of the city, houses a splendid arch dedicated to the saint (1498).
The second, located east of Pavia, dates back to the 13th century and, architecturally, represents a transition between the Romanesque and Gothic.
The Pavese is the north-east part of the province.
It contains numerous places of interest, including Certosa, famous for the monastery of the same name, Bereguardo, Belgioioso and Chignolo Po, site of as many castles.
This area also contains the Terme di Miradolo thermal springs, rich in bromine/iodine salts, and the Sant'Alessio nature area which extends around the castle of the locality of the same name.
Certosa di Pavia
Certosa di Pavia – a locality around 8 km from the city in the direction of Milan – houses the monastery of the same name, entrusted to the Cistercian monks of the Casamari community.
Originally a Carthusian monastery, it was founded by Gian Galeazzo Visconti on 27 August 1396.
Those who contributed to its construction and decoration include the architects Bernardo da Venezia, Cristoforo da Conigo, Giacomo da Campione, Giovanni and Guiniforte Solari, and Cristoforo Lombardo; the sculptors Amadeo, the Mantegazza brothers, Rinaldo de' Stauris, Briosco and Dolcebuono.
Construction of the building required more than two centuries, and for this reason the façade and the rest of the Certosa have the following alternating architectural styles: Lombardy Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque.
The complex is composed of the church, the cloisters (the small cloister on the west side onto which the refectory opens and the large cloister with the 24 monks' cells), the Palazzo Ducale designed by Francesco Maria Richino in the 17th century, and various courtyards.
How to get to Pavia
A21, exit Casteggio – Stradella.
Recommended exit station: A21 – Villanova d'Asti
The Pralormo Castle, to this day the residence of the original proprietors, the Counts Beraudo of Pralormo, is surrounded by a wonderful park designed by Xavier Kurten, celebrated 19th-century landscape architect.
Initial construction of the Castle, dating back to the 13th century, was part of the system of fortifications of this part of Piedmont, contested by Asti and the Counts of Biandrate.
In 1680 Giacomo Beraudo acquired the southern third of the castle, and was given the title of count by the regent Marie Jeanne Baptiste of Savoy Nemours.
Around 1730 the chapel was built, later raised with a frescoed salon.
In 1840 Count Carlo Beraudo di Pralormo, King Charles Albert's Interior Minister, assigned court architect Ernesto Melano to renovate the entire building. In the same period, the small rose garden on the southern side, mentioned as far back as 1500, was transformed into an English garden by architect Xavier Kurten, already known for creating the gardens at Racconigi and Villastellone.
At the end of the century, the minister's grandson arranged the construction of the Orangerie, the farmhouse (1875) and the iron and glass greenhouse by the Lefebvre brothers of Paris.
Visiting the Castle
The castle is opened each year during the "Messer Tulipano" celebration held in April.
It is possible to visit:
– The English garden
– The greenhouse, which opens out onto a flower garden with rotating blooms in which you can find peonies, irises, lilacs, roses and aromatic herbs
– The Orangerie, where the plans for the herbarium created during cataloguing of the park, the old designs and documents relating to the park and the castle are kept.
On the first floor of the Orangerie is a workshop for the ancient Piedmontese Bandera embroidery.
How to get to Pralormo
A21, exit Villanova d'Asti; SS29 towards Alba-Poirino.
Recommended exit station: A21 – Piacenza Sud
The Rivalta castle is located just 13 km from Piacenza, in Val Trebbia, the valley which Ernest Hemingway called the most beautiful in the world.
The peculiarity of Rivalta is that it is not only a castle, but also an authentic mediaeval hamlet.
The systematic restoration and improvement of the entire complex (which culminated in 1990 with the opening of the castle to guided tours) is down to the current owners of the castle, the Zanardi Landis (a branch of the Landi family which inhabited Rivalta as far back as the 13th century).
It was, indeed, count Filippo Zanardi Landi and his wife Francesca Vincenzina dei Marchesi Ardissone who began the restoration process of the hamlet during the 1960s, with the creation of two restaurants, "Antica Locanda del Falco" and "La Rocchetta" with catering service in the suggestive guest quarters of the castle; a hotel, the "residenza Torre di San Martino"; a bar "le cinque lanterne"; characteristic apartments; a tasting area in the ancient keep, "la bottega re di coppe"; and finally other small shops.
The structure is therefore today an ideal location for weddings, meetings and numerous other events.
The castle is a renovation of the 1450 original, of which the cylindrical tower remains, designed by Pietro Antonio Solari, who was also responsible for designing the Palace of the Facets in the Moscow Kremlin.
The visit takes in the hall of honour, the dining room, the copper kitchen, the wine cellar, the dungeons, the bedrooms, the museum area (armoury containing three original Christian banners from the battle of Lepanto in 1571) and the billiards room.
Since 2012, it has also been possible to visit the waxworks museum.
Like all castles worthy of the name, the Rivalta castle has its ghosts, one of whom is the cook Giuseppe: legend has it that he was killed in the 18th century by the butler, whose wife he had forced his attentions on.
He manifests himself by turning switches on and off.
In the 1980s, during a night when Princess Margaret was staying at the castle, Giuseppe apparently entertained himself by operating domestic appliances for over ten minutes.
At Easter, Halloween, New Year and other occasions, the Rivalta castle organises tours and ghost hunts for children.
The children, accompanied by their parents and a guide dressed in period costume, discover fables, legends and other entertaining presences …
How to get to the Rivalta Castle
Motorway exit station:
Piacenza SUD (A 21).
Head towards Gossolengo, then follow signs for Gazzola.