A Brief Itinerary to Discover the Neo-Gothic Flavors of the Langhe Village
Do you often visit the Langhe and wish to explore a less famous place? Read on and discover what to see in Dogliani, the village with a neo-Gothic charm!
Dogliani, a distinctive village in the Langhe, is somewhat secluded compared to the Barolo region (La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, to name a few) and the Barbaresco region, where tourism is well-established. Located on the road to Alta Langa, its hills become steeper and wooded, making it less frequented by wine enthusiasts. However, for those in Alba (approximately 30 kilometers away) or nearby, it can be an interesting and unique destination.
The History of the Village
Dogliani, like many villages in the area, has ancient origins dating back to pre-Roman times, flourishing during Roman rule. Its name is believed to derive from Dolium, the terracotta vessel used for transporting wine on ships, emphasizing its longstanding connection to winemaking. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the settlement gradually moved to the hill and its slopes, fortified to protect against raids by Germanic and Saracen populations.
In the Middle Ages, it passed under various dominions, including the Commune of Alba, the Marquises Del Vasto, and the Marquises Busca. Later, it experienced communal autonomy with conflicts between factions favoring the influence of regional powers like the March of Monferrato, Saluzzo, Acaia, and the Visconti.
In the 16th century, it became a battleground for the French and Spanish, vying for dominance in Europe. After the war, Dogliani was assigned to the Savoy family until the unification of Italy.
In the 19th century, the village experienced a revival, thanks in part to the architect Giovan Battista Schellino, who revitalized its key monuments in a neoclassical and eclectic neo-Gothic style. Another significant figure tied to Dogliani was Luigi Einaudi, the second President of the Republic, buried in the village cemetery. Einaudi founded an agricultural company in Dogliani that still bears his name.
Now that you know more about its history, let’s explore what to see in Dogliani.
What to see in Dogliani: The Church of SS. Quirico and Paolo
Upon arriving in Dogliani, one of the first buildings you’ll notice is the Church of SS. Quirico and Paolo, with its massive dome. It is Giovan Battista Schellino’s grandest creation for the village, conceived as a large temple with classical inspiration. Its Greek cross plan, entirely in exposed brick, measures 46 meters in length and 23 meters in width. The facade is adorned with a pediment supported by four columns and, higher up, two rectangular bell towers.
The interior is even more astonishing, featuring 24 columns supporting the massive dome, reminiscent of the peristyle of classical Greek temples. Along the walls, numerous paintings from the 16th to the 19th century, wooden statues by Antonio Brilla, and a Via Crucis by Gaetano Previati are displayed. Additional decorations have been added to the walls and apse by the Doglianese painter Giovanni Albesiano in recent decades.
The Municipal Palace and the Tower of Cessi
Adjacent to the Church of SS. Quirico and Paolo is the Municipal Palace. Originally an ancient convent dedicated to Madonna del Carmine, it was restored in the mid-19th century by Giovan Battista Schellino to serve as the town hall. Schellino added a floor and, as seen today, utilized a nave of the convent church as a portico. Besides housing municipal offices, it also hosts some of Dogliani’s most interesting attractions:
- Giuseppe Gabetti Archaeological Museum, displaying artifacts from Dogliani’s territory, spanning prehistory to the Middle Ages. Free admission on Saturdays and Sundays.
- Luigi Einaudi Museum, dedicated to the second President of the Republic, distributed across three floors of the palace, narrating his life through multimedia panels. Free entry, open daily with varying hours.
- The Wine Shopof the Municipal Palace and Tower of Cessi, the headquarters of the Dolcetto di Dogliani Docg producers’ consortium, located in the palace’s underground. Here, you can taste and purchase various labels from Dogliani producers.
Behind the municipal palace is another of Schellino’s creations: the Tower of Cessi, serving as a public restroom, one of the earliest in Italy. Despite its less noble function, architecturally it is quite interesting with its neo-Gothic style and some Moorish elements.
What to See in Dogliani: Church of San Lorenzo
After climbing one of the streets leading to the upper part of the historic center, where the castle once stood, you’ll find the Church of San Lorenzo. Built around the year 1000, it underwent significant alterations by Schellino in the mid-19th century. He added a chapel with an altar dedicated to the community and raised the bell tower in the 1880s, giving it neo-Gothic features: the bell chamber with ogival arches, a pointed spire at the top, and many hanging arches as ornamentation.
Later, he conceived a complete transformation of the church from three naves to the octagonal shape visible today. Although he didn’t live to see the final transformation, the project was still carried out. For architecture enthusiasts, this church is notable as one of the first Italian examples of the innovative use of reinforced concrete.
The Civic Tower and the Belvedere Big Bench
Not far from the Church of San Lorenzo, you reach the Belvedere Square, where two symbols of the village, one ancient and one decidedly modern, can be found
One is the Civic Tower, also known as the Clock Tower for its large clock faces indicating the time. Erected in the 12th century, it has been a reference point for the citizens and visitors to Dogliani ever since.
Schellino was entrusted with its restoration in 1862, adding Ghibelline battlements for decorative purposes, rather than having political historical significance like in other parts of Italy
Next to the tower, a Big Bench has been present for some years, becoming a must-visit for people of all ages.
Being in the heart of the historic center, it is easily accessible and therefore quite crowded. If you’re not willing to wait for a photo on the bench, we recommend enjoying the panorama from the Belvedere railing.
What to see in Dogliani: The Monumental Entrance of the Cemetery and the Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie
Two other significant works by architect Schellino are located outside the historic center. The first, perhaps the most meaningful and free from constraints due to existing buildings, is the Monumental Entrance of the Cemetery.
In this architectural work, Schellino’s gothic fantasy and love are evident – pointed spires inspired by the crowns of poplars and cypresses, and the use of materials. The intense red color of handmade bricks, along with wrought iron crosses and gates, creates a mysterious and fascinating atmosphere. Inside the cemetery, you can find the graves of Schellino and Luigi Einaudi.
The second is two kilometers from the historic center and can be reached by car or, weather permitting, on foot. The Sanctuary of Madonna delle Grazie is located on Provincial Road 661, preceded by 13 Rosary Pillars that dot the ascent.
The sanctuary was erected to thank the Madonna for bringing rain after a long drought in 1817. Over the years, it was enlarged and embellished until 1873 when Schellino intervened with his creativity. He started by building two side altars, then added two lateral bell towers to the facade, and finally raised the dome with the statue of Madonna. Adorning the sanctuary is a beautiful fresco on the dome by the Monregalese painter Toscano, who also decorated the 13 Rosary Pillars.
Other Important Places in the Historic Center
The historic center of Dogliani, as mentioned earlier, has retained its medieval structure and some signs of that era. To enter the village, you can pass through Porta Soprana, one of the four ancient gates.
It has an ogival arch surmounted by a fresco symbolizing both the municipal coat of arms and the Savoy coat of arms. Once through, you enter Via Corte, a porticoed and porphyry-paved street leading to Piazza Carlo Alberto. Numerous workshops and exhibitions of local artists overlook this square, earning it the nickname “Art Street.“
In the upper part of Dogliani, a medieval relic is the Torrione with the Casa-Castello dei Perno. Although both structures were expanded and raised in a later period, they retain evident original structures in the lower part
Lastly, don’t miss the beautiful Church of the Battuti, an excellent example of Piedmontese Baroque. Located just outside the ancient walls, it welcomes visitors just before they delve into the narrow streets of the center. Inside, rich decorations and two precious paintings are preserved: S. Teresa d’Avila (1757) by the painter Mallarini and The Crucifixion, in the apse, by Pietro Cuniberti.
What to see in Dogliani: Events and Fairs
Dogliani is lively throughout the year with various and diverse events. The most important nationally is the Festival of TV and New Media. Established in 2012, this annual event in June brings TV protagonists to Dogliani for engaging debates on television and its evolving relationship with new media.
Another cherished event is the Ancient Cherry Fair, which has taken place in the historic center every June for centuries. Numerous local exhibitors showcase their artisanal and gastronomic products, along with delicious cherries.
Now that you know what to do and see in Dogliani, all that’s left is to decide when to visit!