A Brief Itinerary to Discover the Town in the Langhe
If you find yourself in the Langhe and want to explore a charming town, read on and discover what to see in Cherasco. You’ll be amazed!
Cherasco is a small town with just under 10,000 residents, located on the western edge of the Langhe, near Bra, La Morra, and about twenty kilometers from Alba. Despite its size, Cherasco boasts a fascinating history filled with connections to famous and important figures. Its beauty is accentuated by its historic buildings and numerous events, making it an appealing destination throughout the year.
In 1242, Cherasco was founded by the Imperial Vicar of Frederick II Barbarossa, Manfredi II Lancia, and the Podestà of Alba, where a settlement existed since Roman times. In the 1300s, after a brief period under the rule of Duke Amedeo VI of Savoy, it was conquered by Luchino Visconti, the Lord of Milan. Due to dynastic reasons (Valentina Visconti, daughter of Luchino Visconti, married Louis I of France), it came under French control until the Treaty of Cateau-Cambresis. From that point on, the House of Savoy took permanent possession.
Cherasco also hosted the Savoy court for several years in the 1600s during a plague outbreak in Turin. It was during this time that the town became the site for the peace treaty that ended the war for the succession of the Duchy of Mantua, which also included the neighboring Monferrato.
In the late 1700s, Cherasco was conquered by the French army under the command of a young Napoleon, who stayed at Palazzo Salmatoris. Here, the famous Peace of Cherasco was signed, reshaping the borders of the Duchy of Savoy in favor of the newly formed French Republic.
Finally, Cherasco was awarded the Silver Medal for Civil Valor for its citizens’ resistance and the many casualties during World War II. The town witnessed mass executions and killings by the Nazi-Fascists against partisans and their supporters during the Resistance.
After this brief but necessary historical background, let’s discover what to see in Cherasco!
What to See in Cherasco: Palazzo Salmatoris
The first place we recommend visiting in Cherasco, both in terms of importance and beauty, is Palazzo Salmatoris. This noble palace is a beautiful frescoed building from the 1600s located in the heart of the historic center. Many significant events in Cherasco’s history took place within its walls, and it once housed the Holy Shroud in 1706. The “Saletta del Silenzio” (Silent Room), known since then as the “Saletta della Sindone,” still commemorates this event. It was adorned with frescoes by Sebastiano Taricco and remains the most beautiful room in the palace.
In the 1990s, the town of Cherasco undertook a restoration project, transforming the palace into a significant cultural center. It hosts international art exhibitions every year, attracting numerous visitors, including foreigners. What’s most interesting is that these exhibitions are often free to enter, making them accessible to all budgets.
In addition to the temporary exhibitions, the ground floor includes the “Sala Reviglio,” dedicated to the renowned Cherasco painter Romano Reviglio, the room housing the Old Mill, and a space dedicated to contemporary artists. The latter have donated some of their works after their exhibitions in the palace.
Palazzo Gotti di Salerano and the Civic Museum G.B. Adriani
Another must-see location in Cherasco is housed in one of the magnificent noble palaces in the historic center. The Civic Museum G.B. Adriani is located in Palazzo Gotti di Salerano, one of the city’s most prominent families.
This palace captivates visitors with the atmosphere created by the splendid frescoes painted by Sebastiano Taricco in the 1600s. The painter vividly illustrated the theme of human wisdom in all its facets. The scenes, in line with the era’s style, are set within paintings, ovals, frames, and faux architectures, featuring cherubs and allegorical figures.
The museum’s collections are equally impressive. Through invaluable objects, it tells the story of Cherasco, from Roman artifacts found in the city to a lapidary collection preserving coats of arms, capitals, and decorations. There are also documents and paintings that narrate the city’s history and that of Piedmont. Among the many items collected by Gian Battista Adriani and donated to his hometown, his collection of coins stands out. While only a portion of the over 12,000 coins are displayed, they testify to the significant heritage held by this museum. It is considered the second most important numismatic collection in Piedmont after Turin’s.
What to See in Cherasco: Sanctuary of the Madonna del Popolo
One of the most astonishing buildings we encountered during our visit to Cherasco is the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Popolo. Constructed in the late 1600s according to the design by Sebastiano Taricco, it embodies the Baroque style, particularly distinguished by its brick façade, a common feature in Baroque churches in the Langhe and Monferrato regions.
After admiring the complex beauty of the façade, characterized by two orders of columns, niches, and rich entablatures, visitors can enter. The interior is equally intricate. Below the grand dome, a multifaceted polygonal floorplan prevails, adorned with the light colors of white and pink. The numerous stucco decorations are strategically placed to engage the viewer’s gaze, encouraging them to look up. In the side chapels, one must pause to admire works by some of the well-known local painters of the time, such as Sebastiano Taricco, Giancarlo Aliberti, and Pietro Paolo Operti.
This church was an integral part of the Monastery of the Somaschi Fathers for many years. As a testament to this presence, there is a small garden next to the church where the clerics cultivated a garden for centuries. Today, the Ancient Garden of the Somaschi Fathers is maintained by the Department of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Turin and offers the opportunity to admire edible and ornamental flowers. The pathway is enriched with panels explaining the characteristics of the various cultivated species, making it an educational place for city children to discover plants they might rarely encounter in their urban environment.
What to See in Cherasco: Via Vittorio Emanuele II and Its Monuments
Via Vittorio Emanuele II is undoubtedly one of the most appreciated attractions for tourists. The main street is home to some of the city’s symbolic monuments.
At both ends of the street, you’ll find two monumental arches: the Arch of Belvedere and the Arch of Porta Narzole. The Arch of Belvedere was built in the second half of the 1600s as an ex-voto by the people of Cherasco to the Madonna for sparing them from the plague of 1630-1. It presents itself in a pristine white with three arches surmounted by statues of the Madonna of the Rosary and the saints Iffredo, Domenico, Alano, and Nicola da Tolentino. The two niches contain statues of the patrons of Cherasco, San Virginio and Santa Euflamia.
The Arch of Porta Narzole was once the city’s main entrance. Today, it stands as a three-arched structure with exposed bricks and four columns. However, the original design was meant to be quite different. In the late 1700s, they decided to construct it in the image of the Arch of Belvedere, but the wars of the time prevented its completion
n the middle of the street, you’ll find the Town Hall and the Civic Tower. The Town Hall is a rich showcase of architectural and artistic examples reflecting Cherasco’s vibrant culture over the centuries. It features Gothic arches, friezes from the 16th and 17th centuries, and a beautiful 18th-century fresco depicting two young people and the town’s coat of arms. The two figures represent the Tanaro and Stura rivers, which converge at the foot of the hill in Cherasco. The Civic Tower is interesting for its precious and rare sundial painted on the façade. It depicts the moon’s position according to its phases above a forest. On the side, there is an elegant Baroque sundial.
Buildings Not Open to the Public or Open on Specific Occasions
Cherasco has other significant buildings that, unfortunately, are not open to the public because they are privately owned or can be visited only on specific occasions.
The first we want to mention is the Visconti Castle, built by Luchino Visconti in 1348 just outside the city walls. At the time, it was a large square fortress with powerful corner towers and a central entrance, in addition to a large moat. The only access was through a drawbridge, which has since been replaced by a fixed bridge. Today, only three towers of the main side of the old castle remain, while the rear part was replaced in the 1700s by a typical building of that era.
You can reach the castle from the Arch of Porta Narzole by walking along the tree-lined avenue established by Napoleon Bonaparte, but it is not open to the public as it is privately owned.
Another significant building is the Synagogue, a beautiful testament to the thriving Jewish community that animated Cherasco for centuries. The synagogue is located in the ancient Jewish ghetto of Cherasco and, like all synagogues of the time, does not have a visible facade from the street. Another important feature is that it is on the top floor since Jewish law forbids constructing anything above the place of worship. Contrary to the unassuming façade, the prayer room is truly rich and opulent. The pulpit (the tevah) is particularly striking, with a canopy supported by four characteristic Baroque twisted columns. This architectural style is also evident in the walls, merging with the rich decorations and Hebrew inscriptions.
The synagogue is open for guided tours only a few days each year. Another way to visit is by booking with the De Benedetti Cherasco 1547 Onlus Foundation, which manages and has restored the synagogue.
What to See in Cherasco: Events and Markets
In addition to its monuments, tourists often come to Cherasco to witness the numerous events that enliven the streets and squares throughout the year
The most famous and perhaps most appreciated event is the Antique Market, held for many months of the year on the first Sunday of each month. Here, over 600 exhibitors and vendors offer a wide range of antique and collectible items. It’s a must-visit for enthusiasts in this field.
For history lovers, another important event is the Cherasco History Award. Since 1997, every year, some authors, both Italian and foreign, who have written works on historical topics, are honored by a selected jury. What makes this event more intriguing is that the awarded authors engage with the public and students, discussing the themes of their works, which doesn’t always happen in this field.
A unique and increasingly popular event is the International Heliciculture Meeting (now known as Helix), which has reached its 50th edition. This gathering primarily promotes snail farming according to the Cherasco method and introduces curious visitors to the many uses of this invertebrate. Indeed, nothing goes to waste with snails: their meat is used in high gastronomy, snail slime in medical and cosmetic products, their intestines become food for other animals, and their shells, a source of calcium, are used in orthodontic products and massages.
What to Eat in Cherasco: Local Dishes
As you may have gathered, Cherasco is famous for snails, and you can often find dishes based on snails in local restaurants. However, if you’re not a fan, we’ve decided to suggest some other typical dishes from the region. Starting with appetizers, you must try the authentic Vitello Tonnato, a well-known dish that is exceptionally well-prepared in this area. Alternatively, you can savor the excellent hand-chopped Piedmontese Fassona beef. As for first courses, the Risotto al Barolo and the Risotto al Blu di Langa, a goat cheese specialty, are outstanding choices.
For the main course, you have a choice of roasts or the Fritto Misto alla Piemontese, which consists of 18 parts, both savory and sweet. Speaking of sweets, Cherasco’s specialty is the “Baci di Cherasco,” which can be found in the historic Barbero Pasticceria. These are dark chocolate confections filled with roughly chopped toasted hazelnuts—a true delicacy!