Historically as well as geographically, Dogliani has always been a confined territory. As the area’s entry point to the lower southwest Langa territory and homeland of the celebrated Dolcetto wine, its name recalls characteristics of the region itself: Dolium lani, or “botte di Giano” in Italian, “cask of Janus” – the two-faced god who was a great drinker and also the guardian of thresholds and passages.
To the left of the church is the Municipal building, at one time a convent of Carmine, today housing the Luigi Einaudi Museum, the Gabetti archaeological museum, and the “Bottega del vino,” or wine shop. The association running the wine shop comprises of more than thirty producers who are admitted to the group only after a rigorous selection by a tasting committee.
After appreciating the excellent oenological heritage of the zone, relax and observe the town come to life in Piazza Umberto I, which has forever been the center of commercial comings-and-goings. Here, enjoy what the Bar della Riviera has to offer under its porticoes, or, if you happen upon the piazza at the right hour, indulge in the abundant spread of aperitivo, Italian “happy hour,” at the Vin Art Cafè Notturno with its cuts of salumi, excellent cheeses, and accompanying cognà, a type of Piedmontese chutney. On the first and third Saturday of the month, the farmer’s market takes place. Take advantage of the occasion, if possible, to buy organic and local products directly from Langhe farmers.
Passing under the Porta Sottana arch and traversing Via Vittorio Emanuele, lose yourself in exploring the Borgo district, the commercial and touristic heart of the region. Here, too, the gastronomy is excellent: widen your culinary horizons at the vinoteca Scaccia Tappo or, with a quick deviation, taste the local Piedmontese Toma cheese at the small shop of traditional products in Via Tenente Costa.
After a few paces, arrive at Piazza Carlo Alberto, impressive with the beautifully-restored facades of several historical buildings. After admiring these palazzi, don’t miss a visit to the delicatessen Taricco (originally called Gabutti Valentino), a historic store that has maintained high quality in its products through its many years of business.
At this point, the elegant Via Corte begins on a slight uphill. This commercial point of the Borgo will take you in front of Porta Soprana, twin to the Porta Sottana. Passing under the Porta, admire the 18th century Baroque church of the Fraternity of the Battuti. In the same piazza to the left is the covered market: during the Festival of the Saints on November 2, the cisrà is served, a stew made of chickpeas and tripe that was once dished out to travelers who came to the city for the Festival and were exhausted after days of walking.
To the right of the Porta Soprana, find the steep Salita al Castello, or Climb to the Castle, a borderline between two neighborhoods of the town. Travelling along it, arrive at a medieval, covered passageway of Porta Gabetti, and cross over to arrive at the Castle. Stroll immersed in the surreal silence of this separate, small district, passing between stone houses and napping cats. In this intimate and muted zone, a highly-appreciated live Nativity scene is performed every year. If after the steep climb you need a break, stop by the bakery Antico Forno di Castello to try their delicious focaccia. Continue towards Via del Ritiro, and in a few minutes arrive in Piazza Belvedere, where the castle Perno di Caldera stands out with its characteristic great tower and clock tower, which served at one time as watch tower of the land; it was restored in 1862 by the steadfast Schellino. To the left is the small Ritiro Chapel of the Sacred Family with its spires and stained glass, typical of the Schellino style. The most impressive feature of this piazza, dominated by the centuries-old horse chestnut tree, is the spectacular panorama: from here, admire the Borgo with its red-roofed buildings, the monumental hospital and the unmistakable blue cupola of the parish church. Shifting your view, the sweetly sloping hills and the celebrated vineyards of Dolcetto dominate the countryside and form a magnificent mosaic of natural beauty and great architectural work, a well-deserved prize for the curious visitor who overcame the ascent to challenge the ancient custodian Janus.