The Trail of the Torion is a two-hour or less hiking loop that’s perfect for spending a morning or afternoon in the Roero. The trail starts out level as it passes through groves of hazelnuts and poplar trees before ascending Castellero Hill in vineyards and forest, arriving at the lookout point, the Torion.
The Trail of the Torion, one of many scouted out by the Ecomuseum of the Rocks of Roero, begins in the small town of Borbore outside of Vezza d’Alba at a roundabout across from the Banca d’Alba. It can be reached by bus from Alba or Turin (see below for more details on arriving), and the trail is well-marked, clean, and easy to follow with its red and white trail signs pointing the way.
The trail: quick facts
On foot; wear sturdy hiking boots
Departure and arrival: Borbore, outside of Vezza d’Alba
Length: 7 km
Est. time: 1 hr 50 min
Suggested wines: Roero DOCG, Roero Arneis
Follow the first trail marker located at the side of the road, taking a left on Castellero Road; for the first ten minutes, the trail is a paved road. Don’t miss the right-hand turn at the large Azienda Vinicola Casetta (Via Castellero, 5), after which point the road begins to gently wind through fields, hazelnut groves, and pristine lines of poplar trees. Look up to the right to see your final destination, the Torion, or “tower” in Piemontese, standing out on the highest point of Castellero hill.
If you’re hiking this sunny trail in the springtime, you may notice gauzy, white puffs floating gently to the earth while passing through the poplars. These cottony structures come from the trees’ catkins, and contain poplar seeds. Their appearance has actually given certain poplar species the name “cottonwood.”
The gentle walk along this road is the perfect warm-up to the next part of the trail. Immediately upon turning right, it begins a more challenging climb through forest, flowering trees, and open breaks of vineyards. In the Roero, the most common grapevines are Nebbiolo for Nebbiolo d’Alba, Roero DOCG, and Langhe Nebbiolo; white Arneis grapes for the aromatic Roero Arneis; Barbera, to produce Barbera d’Alba; and Dolcetto, for Dolcetto d’Alba.
The trail winds through alternating patches of well-exposed vineyards soaking in unrepentant heat and sunshine and forest areas shaded by chestnuts and pine trees. As the trail skirts the crest of the hill and opens up over vineyards, the panorama is spectacular. To the right lies Borbore Valley and Vezza d’Alba in the distance, with the hills of the Roero covered in forest and vineyards. The left opens up to views of the Roero and, beyond that, the gentler hills of the Langhe. On a clear day, try to identify the towns placed along the hilltops and their castles: Magliano Alfieri, the feudal residence of the powerful Alfieri family beginning in 1240; the Castle of Guarene, home to several branches of the noble Roero family (from which the region gets its name, of course); and even La Morra of Barolo. If very clear, the Alps remain a constant, majestic background.
After about an hour and a half, the trail curves steeply up to the Torion, the cylindrical tower built on the highest point of Castellero Hill. This small tower was once an elegant ciabòt – those stone huts seen at intervals throughout the Roero where farmers stored, and still store today, field tools and other items. With its curving flight of stairs to the second story, it is certainly extravagant for a toolshed. Unfortunately, it was also in the line of fire during World War II, and the holes in its sides were never repaired.
The oversized white bench next to the tower is part of the Big Bench Community Project, a non-profit initiative by American designer Chris Bangle, who has designed others in the Alta Langa and Roero territories. Its exaggerated size makes everyone who sits on it feel like a child, reminding sightseers to marvel at the world as they did when all benches felt that big. Enjoy the 360° view of the Roero, and don’t forget to sign the guestbook inside the mailbox!
The final stretch of the Sentiero del Torion zigzags downhill in a matter of twenty minutes. Upon reaching the bottom and starting point, consider taking another trail of an hour and a half, the Madernassa Pear Trail.
Trail of the Torion (map from Ecomuseo delle Rocche del Roero)
However, a wine lover might skip the second hike and opt for a wine tasting, instead. Five minutes by car down the road towards Vezza d’Alba is the winery of Fabrizio Battaglino, a producer of Roero Arneis, several Nebbiolos, Barbera d’Alba, and Roero DOCG. Call ahead or use the reservation form on his website to book a visit, which includes a tour through his vineyards and wine tasting at no cost. Fabrizio will show you his vineyards at 350 m asl, which is higher than the Torion with an even more impressive view (in fact, one of the Ecomuseum’s trails passes through his vineyards: the Sentiero del Tasso). At the center of his Nebbiolo vineyards sits a well-kept ciabòt equipped with a small fireplace. It is shaded by an enormous cypress pine, planted by Napoleon in the late 18th century in the area’s most aesthetic points as a testimony to his passage during his campaign in Italy; he planted another cypress in Neive. You might also pass by the Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Boschi built in the 12th century, where some notable Roero Counts are buried.
The Roero is full of hiking trails (check out the Ecomuseum’s website for all of them) and great wines. To explore it all, consider spending the night. Stay nearby in the bed and breakfast Le Cicale, where owner Domenico Sarventi enjoys taking his guests on bike rides throughout the Roero. And if all that hiking stirs up an appetite, there is nothing more satisfying than a classic Piemontese dinner from Agriturismo Ristorante Mongalletto, located ten minutes away in Castellinaldo.
How to get to Borbore from Turin: Take the GTT bus in Piazza Carducci for Alba (stop 739: you will see the blue sign with TORINO ALBA and GTT written on it), which you can get to by metro. Depending on the season and day of the week, buses leave roughly every hour. Find the schedule here. Also, ask the driver if your bus goes to Borbore, as some bound for Alba bypass the small towns.
Where to go and what to see:
Ecomuseo delle Roche del Roero
Azienda Agricola Fabrizio Battaglino
B&B Le Cicale
Agriturismo Ristorante Mongalletto