- Written by Pietro Ramunno
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Canale is the mercantile heart of the Roero. The first attestations of its weekly open air market, which still brings the town alive every Tuesday (while the fruit and vegetable vendors sell every day except Saturday), can be traced as far back as the early 1200s.
The commercial soul of the place is shaded under the porticoes of Via Roma today, also known as “Via Maestra,” but at the beginning of the last century the piazzas were the principal point of sale. The market became best known for its peaches and renowned wines of the Roero.
The peach blossom has written fundamental pages in the history books of Roero’s countryside and culture, heralding the beginning of the zone’s modern-day fruit farming, which has absorbed the peach production. An agrarian venture that led an entire farming generation to Canalese and European fame, the peach market was held daily until 1908. By the end of the 1920s, peach cultivation extended over a surface of more than 1000 hectares (2471 acres). The colorful names of the many varieties tell a story of Roero and its farmers, from names that reflect emotions and facts to historical figures or even cultural clothing styles , including Mayflower (Fior di maggio), Looking Good (Beica bin, in Italian “guarda bene”), San Giovanni, Lenin, Badoglio, and Repubblica.
Peaches aside, the Roero wine – like its cousins Barolo and Barbaresco – is a product of Nebbiolo, likewise taking the name of its original zone of production and cultivation. It claims over seven centuries of historical citations and, together with Arneis, is practically a standard-bearer of Roero viticulture. For more information on these wines and others that are expressions of their territories (Langhe Favorita, Cisterna d’Asti, Moscato d’Asti, Birbèt, Barbera d’Alba, Nebbiolo d’Alba, and Langhe DOC, both red and white), stop by the Regional Enoteca of Roero, presided over by Luciano Bertello, who plays a central and driving role in the eno-gastronomic and touristic development of the Roero.
The winehouse is situated in the ex-nursery school called “Queen Margherita,” a well-restored building of the last century, adjacent to the Parish Church of St. Vittore. The church was reconstructed at the end of the 14th century by the Roero family and is characterized by the great belltower topped with a bronze statue 6 meters high dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Its construction was strongly advocated by monsignor Luigi Sibona and brought to fruition thanks to the contribution of the entire population of Canale. Passing through its gate with the characteristic crest of the lineage of the Counts of Roero and the words “I’ll return the favor” (A’ bon rendre or, in Italian, “A buon rendere”), find the ground floor shop with its exposition of wines and traditional Roero products from over 100 wineries and vendors, plus helpful tourist information.
The upper storey houses the well-known Ristorante All’Enoteca, Michelin-starred since 2000. It consists of two large dining rooms in a subtly elegant atmosphere where you can enjoy traditional Piedmontese cuisine proposed with creativity and panache by chef Davide Palluda and his sister Ivana.
Continuing along Via Roma, come upon the Sacchero Bakery, specializing in chocolate production and famous for its “Duchess” pralines made from an ancient, patented recipe. If this tasty stop doesn’t satisfy your sweet tooth, outside of the historical center but still on Via Roma is the Palluda Bakery, which specializes in the delicious Frangelico, a hazelnut liqueur. On the opposite side of the street at Bono Formaggi, find an ample selection of high quality food products and truffles.
In Piazza Italia, walk until the Church of St. Giovanni, behind which the Belltower is worth a visit as it’s the last remaining piece of the ancient city wall. Recently restructured, a visit to the top of the tower is available upon reservation at the Municipal building. Return to Via Roma and continue your walk until the Church of St. Bernardino in the St. Bernardino Piazza, reconstructed in Baroque style. Inside are fine paintings and a valuable wooden crucifix from the mid-15th century. Popular legend has it that the hairs of Christ are truly His and lengthen perceptibly in presage of a disastrous harvest so that, in times past, the crucifix was carried in procession to the countryside and vineyards to extend its protection as far as possible. At the opposite side of the piazza at Damonte Butchery and Gastronomia, we recommend purchasing the salumi produced on the spot, particularly the jambon rostì, and the roasted prosciutto of Canale; the Salumeria Faccenda is also famous for this last salumi, as well for its galantina, whose historical and artisanal production has been passed down from generation to generation since 1894.
To finish your tour of Canale, return to your starting point to see the Castle, built in 1270 by the Comune (Local Administration) of Asti for defense; it changed ownership until arriving in the hands of Count Malabaila in 1512. This privately-owned castle is surrounded by a large park with centuries-old oak trees and open to visitors by contacting the property owners at +39 0173 95598.
If all these stops at food stores and walking through the historical center have left your stomach growling, Canale isn’t lacking for great places to eat. Choose from the centrally-located Trattoria Le Tre Galline and Hotel and Restaurant Leon D'Oro Secolare to the luxurious Villa Tiboldi, located right outside of Canale like the Agriturismo Le Querce del Vareglio is.
To walk off your delicious and possibly abundant meal, stroll along the Viale del Pesco, entering Via Boschetto and continuing towards the Santuario of the Madonna of Mombirone. The sanctuary is built at the summit of a hill that overshadows Canale from on high, offering a spectacular view from which all of the Roero can be seen.