The underground cathedrals of Canelli are a unique expression of traditional oenology in these zones that are famous for Moscato d’Asti. If visiting the Asti area, don’t miss the occasion to taste some of the region’s literally hidden treasures.
Visualizza Canelli sotterranea in una mappa di dimensioni maggiori
Canelli is the capital of Asti and Moscato d'Asti. This itinerary takes you to the heart of local viticulture, departing from the Mu.S.A., the Multimedia Museum of Southern Asti, in Canelli. In the museum, the history of the city and its territory is told through a journey over 150 years old. Beginning with the old farming viticulture, the visit progresses through a series of rooms ending in modern-day wine production based on industry and international commerce. On display are tools once used by viticulturists and characteristic posters from the early 1900s that the era’s most important wine producers used to promote their labels.
After getting your fill of Canelli’s wine history, it’s time to descend under the city’s soil and pay a visit to the celebrated Underground Cathedrals. These ancient wineries of historical cantine are excavated right out of the rocks, and are such a unique expression of culture that on June 22, 2014 they were specially recognized as part of the UNESCO World Heritage "Langhe-Roero and Monferrato Viticultural Landscapes." The calcareous tuff over which Canelli was built is actually the perfect natural thermal insulation, able to maintain a constant temperature of 12-14 degrees C (54 -57 degrees F), ideal for aging great wines. Covered in bricks upon first sight, the casks and pupitres (wine racks) line long tunnels and fill large rooms with vaults and pillars, reaching a depth of 30 m (98 ft) for a total extension of more than 18 km (11 mi).
The tunnels’ construction began in the 16th century and expanded in the 19th when the high quality of Canelli wines was affirmed on a global scale after casks were shipped abroad throughout Europe and overseas. There was no plan to grow these caverns so huge, but they were expanded with pickaxes and chisels little by little as the wineries grew larger. All the tunnels have a name in order to avoid getting lost in this subterranean labyrinth.
The most famous subterranean cathedrals are those of Gancia, Bosca, Contratto, and Coppo, but there are hundreds of wineries that have their own small, underground cellars. Many tunnels are even used as offices, picture galleries, or magazines; and the Regional Enoteca of Canelli decided to transform their own tunnel into a striking restaurant. The Bank of Alba in Via Giuliani has a secured vault in the tunnel of their building, and the cantine of Reale Insurance – containing a rare source of water – are used for exhibits and events.