Today we’re going to talk about a part of Piedmont full of charm, characterised by magnificent landscapes, imposing castles and ancient hamlets: Roero. This land is important and fascinating to the point of being one of the UNESCO World Heritage.
The area of Piedmont called Roero is situated in the north-east of Cuneo province, less than 50 km from Turin.
When and how to go
The best times to visit Roero are April and September/October.
Both Spring and Autumn have their pros and cons. During April the landscape of the vineyards is bound to be a little bare; however, you’ll be able to visit the beautiful park of Pralormo Castle, where you can admire thousands of tulips arranged in fabulous flowerbeds.
In Autumn, you won’t be able to enjoy the park at Pralormo, but you’ll be able to admire the fantastic show of the hills, with the vineyards loaded with grapes or painted in the typical tones of red and yellow.
The best day to enjoy your tour is Sunday. Most of the castles around Roero are private properties or residences, so usually you can’t visit them. The few attractions opened to the public, although private, are open on Sundays only.
There’s only one way to get around Roero in this tour: by car. Trains don’t stop here, and the trip by bus would be at least three times longer.
During today’s tour, we’re going to start from Pralormo, a few kilometres from where Roero begins, and we’ll arrive in Govone. Along the way, we’re going to stop at Cisterna d’Asti, Monteu Roero, Montaldo Roero, Sommariva Perno, Guarene and Magliano Alfieri.
Your first stop is going to be Pralormo, a small village known all over Piedmont for its charming castle and the event Messer Tulipano, taking place in April. The castle usually opens at 10. Since you itinerary for the day is packed with places to visit, I suggest you arrive in Pralormo for the opening hour. If you come here when Messer Tulipano takes place, resist the temptation to visit the park immediately and book the first available guided tour of the castle. Since the castle is still a private residence, access is granted only through a guided tour which lasts 45 minutes more or less. There are several throughout the entire day, but the places are limited. The later you book your spot, the later you’ll be able to get inside the castle, and this is going to impact your entire day. However, if you manage to book the first tour, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the castle and then explore the park.
Pralormo Castle was built during the Middle Ages. During the centuries, however, this building stopped being a defensive structure and was transformed into an aristocratic residence. The Earl Carlo Beraudo, owner of the castle during the Savoy age, was a prominent diplomat of the Savoy Kingdom and the castle fully impart the importance of this man.
During the first part of the visit, taking place in the lower part of the building, you’ll be taken around the rooms where the staff used to live and work. You’ll be able to see the kitchen, the servant’s quarters, the storage rooms and a vast collection of everyday objects typical of the life of the castle. Particularly interesting are several specimens of objects that are common now, but were state-of-the-art technology more than a century ago, such as the pressure cooker, the shower and a mixer used to obtain sparkling water.
During the second half of the visit, you’ll be brought up to the noble floor, where the Earl and his family used to give refined parties and banquets for the most prominent personalities of their time. These rooms are full of historical references and details that allow the visitor to learn about the origin of many of the customs now common in terms of hospitality.
If you decided to visit Pralormo Castle in Aprile, once outside, all you have to do is taking a stroll among the flowerbeds and enjoy the tulips. The event Messer Tulipano is now at its 20th edition, and it’s an unmissable stop if you are in the area at the right time.
The second stop of your tour is Cisterna d’Asti, the only village which is part of Roero but it’s in Asti province.
The main attraction is the imposing castle. The castle, built between the years 1200 and 1300, has a massive city wall, extremely rare in this part of Piedmont. The castle hosts the Museum of Old Arts and Crafts, a place to relive centuries of history and rediscover ancient jobs and their tools.
Unfortunately, the Museum is open for a few hours in the afternoon. This makes scheduling the visit challenging.
As it happens for many villages in this land, Monteu Roero has its magnificent castle, built on top of the hill. The castle was crucial for its strategic position. From there, in fact, you can see the whole valley and protect the village nearby.
This castle, built around the year 1000, is quite difficult to visit inside. In fact, it’s a private property opened to the public only for 4 or 5 Sundays each year, during the event Castelli Aperti. If you are lucky enough to be around when the castle is opened, don’t miss it! Even if the restoration works changed the castle, you can admire the fantastic frescoes from 1500 and go back in time to the Middle Ages.
Unlike other villages in the area, Montaldo Roero doesn’t have a castle. But don’t worry, this village has something to offer too. The building characterising Montaldo is a cylindric watchtower, which overlooks the hill and was built during the XIII century.
Up to this point of the tour, you’ve been spared churches—something quite difficult to accomplish in Italy. However, now it’s time to visit the first and only of the day. It’s the Holiest Our Lady Church (Chiesa della Santissima Annunziata), a late Romanesque building brought back to its past glory by the restoration works in 1920.
When you are ready to leave Montaldo and head toward Sommariva Perno, don’t forget to stop on the bridge. From here, you’ll be able to admire a landscape quite different from the vineyards. From here, in fact, you can see the Rocche, rocky formations typical of this part of Roero.
If you want to remain in the area for more than one day, I strongly recommend taking part in one of the excursions on foot or by bike along the paths among the Rocche. Here you can find the suggested paths and guided excursions.
The last village in the area of the Rocche we’re going to visit is Sommariva Perno. Its main point of interest is the Mirafiori Castle, called so after the Countess of Mirafiori Bela Rossin, wife of King Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy.
Even if the castle has a history of almost one thousands years, the restoration works funded by the Savoy family gave it the typical features of XIX century buildings.
Since it’s a private residence, the castle can’t be visited inside. However, you can admire it from outside at leisure.
After leaving the Rocche behind, you can head towards the hill overlooking the Tanaro river, characterised by the presence of imposing castles.
The first one along the itinerary is the Castle of Guarene. This important building changed drastically during the centuries. From its defensive purpose in the Middle Ages, it was transformed in imposing residence by the Earl Carlo Giacinto di Guarene during XVIII century. After being the residence of some of the most important noble families in Piedmont, now it has become a luxury five stars hotel.
If you can afford 500 euros per night for a double room, you can spend a night fit for a king.
After seeing many castles from the outside only, finally, you can visit one inside: the Castle of Magliano Alfieri.
This castle, built during 1650 over the medieval fortress overlooking the valley from the top of the hill, now has lost most of its past splendour. Besides a few details, such as the imposing staircase and the carved walnut entrance door, the castle doesn’t offer furnished rooms or decorations of interest.
What makes this castle interesting are the museums it hosts. The first one is the Museum of the plaster ceilings. Here you can learn everything about gypsum, its manufacturing and its use as a decoration of ceilings in houses and buildings.
The second Museum is the Landscape Museum. Here you can live firsthand through pictures, videos and interactive activities how the Roero landscape changed from a land of farms to cradle of wine production.
Before leaving the village, don’t miss a walk to the Belvedere. From this amazing panoramic point, you can enjoy a 360-degree view over Roero and Langhe.
The last stop in this tour is the Royal Castle of Govone, at the top of the namesake village. Since this castle is part of the Savoy residences, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage.
For a century, this castle was a summer residence for the Savoy family. Recently, however, it’s slowly declining. At present, the interiors are bare, without furniture, since most of them were sold, and shows the passing of time. Fortunately, this fascinating castle still keeps some important features that make it an unmissable stop. From the imposing staircase, the visitor enters in the majestic Hall of Honour, decorated with trompe-l’ oeil frescoes about the Greek mythology. The Chinese rooms are another jewel in this castle. It’s pretty rare to see so many rooms devoted to the Chinese style.
With this last visit, our tour of Roero comes to its end.
Don’t miss our next tour!