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 A Brief Itinerary to Discover the City Famous for Its Wine

Are you a wine enthusiast seeking interesting experiences? Then read on and discover what to see in Canelli – the perfect city for you!

Canelli, a charming town in the province of Asti, is situated on the border between Monferrato Astigiano and Langhe. The city is traversed by the Belbo stream, whose valley begins to open up here, gradually descending towards the Alessandrian plain. This UNESCO World Heritage site is renowned globally for a product that gains more appreciation each year: Asti D.O.C.G. sparkling wine. This sweet wine was the first Italian sparkling wine, invented by Carlo Gancia in the mid-1800s. Gancia improved the Champagne method used in France and applied it to the Moscato grapes abundant in Canelli. Subsequently, other wineries in the area adopted the method, making Canelli the first Italian capital of sparkling wine.

However, Canelli’s history dates back to prehistoric times when Ligurian Statielli tribes settled in the area. In Roman times, a significant settlement was founded, serving as a reference for the numerous vineyards cultivated even then. In the Middle Ages, Canelli submitted to the municipality of Asti and became one of its most important centers. Consequently, it often fell victim to the expansionist ambitions of the nearby Marchesato del Monferrato, leading to sieges, with the most famous being the one in 1613, commemorated by Canelli’s citizens for many years.

After this brief introduction, let’s explore what to see in Canelli.

What to see in Canelli: The Underground Cathedrals

The first suggestion for exploring Canelli is the Underground Cathedrals. Despite the peculiar name, these extensive tunnels and galleries, carved into tuff hills between the 16th and 19th centuries, can truly be compared to sacred places, especially for wine enthusiasts. Inside, ideal conditions for aging the finest wines and sparkling wines are maintained, with constant humidity and temperatures around 12-14 degrees Celsius. Today, the most prestigious labels from renowned Canelli wineries mature in these underground cathedrals, exported worldwide.

Bosca Historic winery

 Winery Tours

These symbols of the integration between human work and nature played a crucial role in the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato’s UNESCO World Heritage candidacy in 2014. Four renowned wineries offer interesting and satisfying guided tours of the Underground Cathedrals:

  • Bosca Winery (Via G.B. Giuliani 23): Guided tours of the historic cellar, explanation of sparkling wine production methods, and a tasting at the end. Cost: €6. Booking: cantine@bosca.it.

  • Contratto Winery (Via G.B. Giuliani 52): A 120-minute guided tour, including explanations of their wine production methods and a visit to the galleries. Tasting of classic method sparkling wines at the tour’s end. Cost: €40 for adults, €20 for children. Booking: visite@contratto.it.

  • Coppo Winery (Via Alba 68): An interesting guided tour of their underground cathedral with insights into Piedmont’s grape varieties, vineyard cultivation, and winemaking methods. Various customizable visit options. Information and reservations: visit@coppo.it.

  • Gancia Winery: Explore an enchanting underground itinerary uncovering the history of Italian sparkling wine through Gancia’s archives. Information and reservations: ferrero@gancia.it.

What to see in Canelli: La Stërnia

For those who enjoy walking and immersing themselves in city streets, we recommend exploring “La Stërnia.” This ancient cobbled walkway connects Canelli’s historic center to the castle atop the hill, passing through the Villanuova neighborhood. Climbing along narrow hairpin turns, you’ll encounter Langhe stone houses alongside brightly colored ones, small orchards, and gardens, creating a charming atmosphere..

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Glimpse of the Sternia (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Churches along La Stërnia

Along La Stërnia, the city’s most important churches, representing significant architectural examples, overlook the path. The first is the Church of San Tommaso, founded in the Middle Ages but extensively renovated in the 17th century. Notable features include the beautiful Baroque facade and two frescoes depicting San Tommaso and the Assumption. A few meters uphill is the Church of Annunziata, also with a splendid Baroque facade adorned with a fresco. Interestingly, this church was granted by the Diocese of Asti to Canelli’s sizable Orthodox community for their religious practices.

Near the top of the street, two churches face each other: San Leonardo and San Rocco. The former is a beautiful Baroque church housing renowned works by Canelli master Giacomo Aliberti, while the latter, now deconsecrated, is more scenic with its Langhe stone and brick facade and typical late Baroque curves.

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Church of San Rocco (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Gancia Castle

At the hill’s summit, dominating Canelli, stands Gancia Castle. Originally built in the Middle Ages as a fortress to defend the underlying Belbo Valley, it was transformed into a noble palace in the early 1600s by the noble Scarampi family. The current modern forms date back to the 1900s when it became the residence of the Gancia family, who still live there.

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Gancia Castle (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

What to see in Canelli: La Stërnia alias The Lovers’ Lane

Along La Stërnia, a special mention goes to the Lovers’ Lane inaugurated in 2018. This romantic itinerary is a true art gallery inspired by the works of Raymond Peynet. Artists drew inspiration from the famous illustrator, who, in 1983, dedicated a decorated tile to La Stërnia featuring his renowned characters – a violinist and a girl listening intently.

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Work on the Lovers’ Lane (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

In addition to the exhibited works, the Lovers’ Lane offers endless glimpses of the surrounding panorama. Among them, the most beautiful is perhaps the one seen from the panoramic terrace of Costa Belvedere, renamed “Belvedere Unesco.”

What to see in

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Unesco Belvedere (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Canelli: The Tower of Contini

As you’ve noticed, Canelli boasts numerous panoramic spots. The last we want to highlight is perhaps the most beautiful: the Tower of Contini. This ancient watchtower is literally immersed in Moscato vineyards, marking one of the commune’s boundaries. To reach it, ascend a steep dirt road, and rest assured the effort will be rewarded.

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Contini Tower (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The 360-degree view from the top encompasses the hills of Langhe and Monferrato, extending on clear days to the peaks of the Alps and the Ligurian Apennines. The breathtaking scenery begins even at the tower’s base but becomes even more thrilling from the two balconies reached via spiral staircases. Oh, and by the way, admission is free 24/7.

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Panorama from the Contini Tower (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Now that you know what to do and see in Canelli, it’s time to embark on your adventure!

 

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