Medieval hilltop towns of Barolo
- Written by Diana Zahuranec
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Curving through forests and over hills covered with vineyards of one of Italy’s most precious grapes – Nebbiolo – bypassing wineries and farm houses through the spectacular countryside of Barolo, follow this path that lets you explore three jewels of the region: Barolo, Monforte d’Alba, and Novello.
Visualizza Tra i colli del nebbiolo in una mappa di dimensioni maggiori
Begin in Piazza Cabutto in Barolo, where there is space to park your car. You may want to explore this small town totally dedicated to the great wine of the Nebbiolo grape after your hike: a well-deserved rest at one of its fine restaurants, tasting Barolo at a popular wine bar, or purchases of the wine from its own place of production would do well to wait after a day of hiking.
Begin your hike at the road Vicolo del Pozzo in front of the Municipal building. The road heads sharply down before you take the left at the fork, continuing down into the valley. At the bottom, hazelnut groves and a wooded area surround a small playground with picnic tables and a sign to the right proclaiming the trailhead. Follow this white sign with its red arrow throughout your journey, together with the white and red stripes; the trail is well-marked.
The path immediately zigzags steeply up through a wooded area, breaking through to Nebbiolo vineyards. Be sure to look left, as the woods frame a beautiful view of Barolo and its castle in the surrounding vineyards; and to the high right, the village of La Morra looks down over its territory. After another uphill, the path becomes paved as it runs beside farmhouse Casa Bricco (bricco is Piedmontese for Italian “picco,” or mountain peak), which the Gomba winery has restructured to lodge tourists. To the east, see the towers of Castiglione Falletto and to the west, after passing the farmhouse, the glimmering, snow-capped Alps beyond the vineyards, houses, and flatlands where the Tanaro River plains begin.
Always following the red and white signs, the trail takes you under a forested area (enjoy the shade, because it’s rare in an area where they’ve been felled to make room for vineyards) to the community of Bussia. Nearby is Cascina Sòt, a winery and shop open for visitors. Returning to the path, find a sweeping view of the valley and your first glimpse of Monforte d’Alba straight ahead.
At a small church, your street meets up with the busy SP57, which you follow to the left until it becomes cobbled and leads directly into the main Piazza Umberto I of Monforte. The piazza is ringed with shops, restaurants, and bars.
The town of Monforte deserves more than a quick stopover. Wind your way through the streets, passing by buildings pulled directly from the Middle Ages, such as Le Case della Saracca; or you may see Osteria dei Catari, named for a heretic religious sect from the 11th century, its bright shutters and pastel walls creating a lovely contrast with the ancient surroundings.
Upon reaching the top, find the Horzowski Amphitheatre used for concerts – the cultural life of Monforte is full of such events. Admire the surrounding St. Elisabetta and St. Agostino Oratories, the 15th century bell tower, and an unbeatable view of the Langhe. To continue your hike, pick up the trail outside of town again, heading back until the fork at Cascina Sòt. Take the left towards Panerole and Novello.
After descending into the valley on a wide, grassy trail, the path turns uphill once again. At the crest of the hill along the road that leads into Novello (on top of Bricco Ravera), don’t miss the beautiful estates and farmhouse of Elvio Cogno, a famous label of the town. Upon reservation, it’s possible to visit the astonishing winery and taste wines paired with food: Barolo, Barbaresco, Langhe Nascetta, Langhe Rosso, Barbera, and Dolcetto d’Alba.
Just before entering this hilltop town, to the right of the road is a white church excavated into the rock, and to its right, the ruins of the Chapel of Saint Rocco, erected in the 1400s and purposed for confining the town’s inhabitants stricken by the epidemics that went through the area. Continue straight into this wind-swept town, very small but harboring architectural jewels such as the incredibly well-preserved medieval bell tower, the church of St. Michael the Archangel, and the fabulous Neo-gothic Castle of Novello, constructed not long ago in 1880.
Exit the town by the same paved road you entered, following signs to Barolo. At Cascina Foglia, turn left down the grassy road, once again amid lines of vineyards. Cresting the hills, catch sight of Barolo bathed in light. At the fork pointing to Via Veneto and Via Einaudi, head left, following this road until you finish at the exact starting point in Piazza Cabutto.