Short itinerary to discover the small village of Roero, a domain of Vittorio Alfieri’s family
You’re visiting Roero and wondering which places to see? Well, then read on and discover what to see in Magliano Alfieri. You’ll definitely want to include it in your itinerary!
Magliano Alfieri is a small village perched on a hill overlooking the nearby Tanaro Valley, where Alba is located. A few kilometers away, there are other interesting villages like Govone with its castle, Castellinaldo, Guarene, and, on the opposite side of the valley, the Barbaresco wine region. Despite the competition around, Magliano Alfieri stands out for the beauty of its views and some symbolic places that make it a pleasant visit. But before showing you those, let us tell you a bit about the village’s history.
The History of the Village
The history of Magliano Alfieri, like many other villages in the area, began on the plain, possibly where the Ligurian Statielli had a settlement. However, it was with the Roman conquest that a town developed along the road connecting Asti and Pollenzo, two important cities of the time. The name Magliano actually derives from “Mallianum,” which was a flourishing settlement, as evidenced by numerous artifacts found in the Sant’Antonio area.
The situation changed drastically with the first incursions of Germanic peoples and, later, with the fall of the Roman Empire. The plains became insecure, and the population moved to the nearby hills. Initially, a fortified enclosure with walls was built on the hill where the Vittorio Alfieri Park now stands, serving as a refuge during raids, while people mostly lived scattered in the surrounding area. Only with the arrival of the Alfieri family, who acquired these lands in the 1200s to become feudal lords, did a unified inhabited center re-emerge.
From that point until the 1800s, Magliano Alfieri followed the fate of the noble Asti family. It passed from the Marquisate of Monferrato to the Duchy of Savoy, then entered the Kingdom of Sardinia and ultimately the Kingdom of Italy. The signs left by the Alfieri family over these centuries are evident, and it’s no coincidence that “Alfieri” was added to the name Magliano. Now, it’s time to truly discover what to see in Magliano Alfieri.
What to See in Magliano Alfieri: The Castle
The main attraction to see in Magliano Alfieri is its castle. As mentioned earlier, the birth of the unified village is attributed to the arrival of the Alfieri family, who built a fortified house in the 1300s. It was located where the current castle stands, strategically positioned to defend the noble family and the village from potential enemies.
In the 1600s, at the behest of Catalano Alfieri, the fortified house was demolished to make way for a much more beautiful and elegant palace. Its architecture is typical of the era and resembles many noble palaces in Turin. Inside, two salons stand out, showcasing the wealth and importance of this family. The first is the Salon of Gypsum Coats of Arms, displaying the coats of arms of the Alfieri family and related families. These are the work of 19th-century stucco artists from Lugano. The second is the Eagles Hall, named after the subject chosen to decorate the ceiling. Since 2007, the castle has been part of the “8 Castles” circuit, better known as Castelli Doc.
An interesting discovery is that the renowned author Vittorio Alfieri spent many summers in this castle as a young man and mentioned it in several of his letters. Perhaps he got some ideas for his works during those moments spent in these rooms. Who knows?
The Castle’s Museums
One thing we know for sure is that the castle is now owned by the municipality and houses two museums that reveal lesser-known aspects of Magliano Alfieri.
he two museums are:
- Gypsum Ceilings Museum.
- Landscape Theater.
The Gypsum Ceilings Museum is a gem that explains how the peasants in this area used gypsum as a building material. They applied it to the ceilings between wooden beams.
What’s most interesting is that the gypsum decorations were created using negative molds, making the room more beautiful. Among the gypsum decorations found and displayed are floral motifs, cherubs, and grapevines.
The oldest known gypsum ceiling dates back to 1580 and was found in a farmhouse in Vezza d’Alba, while most are from the 19th century. This museum is essential in dispelling the misconception that Piedmontese farmers lacked creativity and aesthetic taste.
The Landscape Theater is a space designed to highlight the connection between peasant knowledge and the territory. The fame of the Langhe and Roero regions in the world is due to the skilled work of the people who have lived in this area for centuries. Through multimedia installations, documents, and material and immaterial testimonies from the Langhe and Roero people are shown. They are the true protagonists of this millennium-long history that has led to today’s success.
For both museums, you can purchase a combined ticket for 7 euros per person (for discounts and opening hours, refer to the Castle’s website).
What to See in Magliano Alfieri: The Chapel of the Holy Crucifix
In the East Wing of the Castle, there’s another must-see place in Magliano Alfieri: the Chapel of the Holy Crucifix. While it is an integral part of the noble palace, we’ve dedicated a separate section to it. The chapel is part of the “Chiese a Porte Aperte” circuit, which, thanks to a dedicated app, makes it accessible every day from 9 am to 6 pm. This app allows you to book your entry time and provides a QR code for self-guided exploration. Once inside, you can choose your language, and an explanation of the frescoes and the church’s history begins.
This chapel has a unique history. It was commissioned by Vittorio Alfieri’s mother, who had married Carlo Giacinto Alfieri, to receive communion daily. Vittorio Alfieri himself wrote to the Pope to have this space consecrated and allow masses to be celebrated there. The chapel is also known as the Chapel of the Shroud due to the presence of a representation of the Shroud. This representation commemorated the transfer of the Shroud from Chambéry to Turin by the House of Savoy.
The chapel is a beautiful example of Baroque art. What immediately captures the attention of anyone entering are the trompe-l’oeil frescoes by the painter Pier Paolo Operti, which create a remarkable architectural effect, seemingly expanding the limited space. The structure consists of a single rectangular nave that ends with a circular space housing a very simple faux marble altar. The paintings feature numerous symbols and references to Christ and His sacrifice for humanity, too numerous to describe in this article. The internal explanation will remove any doubts.
What to See in Magliano Alfieri: The Church of St. Andrew
Just a short walk from the castle is another symbol of the village, the Church of St. Andrew. This church is a true mix of styles, having undergone many renovations over the centuries. Even if you don’t have a highly trained eye, you can roughly tell that the bell tower dates back to the 1300s and is the oldest part of the structure. The facade is from the 1800s, while the interiors are from the 1600s.
We can tell you that the construction was commissioned by Catalano Alfieri, who also had the castle rebuilt. Naturally, his descendants continued to renovate it, adapting it to the standards of their respective eras. Two curiosities we can add are that inside the church, you can find the tomb of Catalano Alfieri, while on a side facade, there’s a beautiful sundial.
Perhaps it’s not one of the most beautiful churches you can see in this region, but it still has something to tell. Moreover, from its courtyard, you can enjoy one of the best panoramas in the area!
Vittorio Alfieri Park and the Belvedere
Speaking of panoramas, right near the church, there’s a metal platform that allows you to see the surrounding landscape. This artificial belvedere is probably the only point from which you can see the village and its main monuments from a truly unique perspective. For those who want to enjoy the view a bit longer (maybe in good company), there’s also a bench
To reach it, you need to follow a short path in the Vittorio Alfieri Park, which is located on the hill where the medieval fortified enclosure once stood. Under the shade of its trees, those visiting Magliano in the heat of summer, like us, can enjoy some refreshment and peace. In the summer, the park is often animated by various cultural activities and themed dinners organized by the restaurant near the castle. Perhaps you can decide to visit Magliano during one of these events.
Whatever time you decide to go, you now know exactly what to do and see in Magliano Alfieri!