What to see in Roccaverano - Panorama - Castle tower - Church of Santa Maria Assunta - Piazza Barbero

A Brief Guide to Discovering the Small Village in Langa Astigiana Famous for its Robiola

Are you looking for a village in the Langhe away from mass tourism? Then start discovering what to see in Roccaverano, and you’ll immediately feel the urge to visit!

Roccaverano is a tiny village perched on a high hill in Langa Astigiana, a part of the Langhe not heavily frequented by tourists. Here, you won’t find hills covered with vineyards rising gracefully on the horizon, but rather steep hills and dense woods. This area is more akin to the nearby Ligurian Apennines, traversed by small streams and deep ridges where space is reserved for goat farming.

Its history is closely tied to its dominant position over the first stretch of the Bormida Valley. Roccaverano was often occupied by various powers vying for control of the Apennine passes. In the Middle Ages, it was a fiefdom of the Marquises of Vasto in Savona, passing to the domination of the Commune of Asti in the 1200s. Only a century later did it become the fief of the Scarampi family, maintaining control for several centuries.

Between the 17th and 18th centuries, like the rest of Italy, Roccaverano became a battleground for European powers. Initially occupied by the Spanish, then the French, it eventually became a stable part of the Kingdom of Savoy, following its events until the unification of Italy. Today, despite experiencing significant depopulation, it continues to play an important role in the region, striving to establish itself as a tourist destination.

After this introduction, you are ready to discover what to see in Roccaverano.

What to see in Roccaverano: The Castle and the Tower

Roccaverano, as you may have gathered, is a small cluster of houses that unfolds around the hill’s summit where the main square is located. Here, your eye will be captivated by the imposing remains of the castle and the large circular tower that overlooks them. Both have recently been restored and are freely accessible to the public.

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Castle and Circular Tower (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The castle’s remains consist mainly of the wall that occupies almost an entire side of the square. Here, you’ll notice three pointed arch mullioned windows with a central column and a stone frame, adorned with geranium-filled pots in the warm months. Below, there are also arrow slits indicating the castle’s primarily military function. Inside the wall, there’s a balcony allowing a captivating view of the square from a unique perspective..

The Circular Tower

Much more interesting and even more enticing is the tower. Standing at over 30 meters tall with a circumference of over 26 meters, the tower, like the castle, is constructed from sandstone. Its solid and imposing structure served as a landmark for the surrounding territories and a formidable defensive bastion in case of attack. Now, it is the most coveted spot in the area to enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view as far as the eye can see. However, reaching the top requires effort and some agility. While there’s a convenient external staircase to reach the entrance (about 7 meters high), inside, each floor is accessed by climbing ladders.

Our advice is not to venture if you don’t have appropriate footwear and comfortable clothing. Additionally, the entrance is prohibited for safety reasons for children under 14. After the climb, however, we assure you that the effort is well worth it. Notably, the panoramic view from above is our chosen main photo for this article. Once you descend, take a few minutes to relax in the park between the castle and the tower—an ideal place to enjoy the silence and coolness (if visiting in summer) or have a picnic.

What to see in Roccaverano: The Church of Santa Maria Annunziata

On the same square, another very interesting and historically significant place awaits: the Church of Santa Maria Annunziata. When we saw it, we immediately noticed that its forms were unlike the churches in this area. Our assumption was correct; the church is linked to Bramante, one of the most important Renaissance artists. Its construction is attributed to Enrico Bruno, a bishop native to Roccaverano, who, in the early 1500s, was the treasurer of Pope Julius II. Therefore, it is likely that, thanks to his good relations with the artist, he persuaded him to design a church for his hometown.

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Church of Santa Maria Annunziata (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

To delve into specifics, Bramante’s influence is particularly evident in the characteristic facade with crossed orders. The architect overlaid a gabled facade with a classical-style pediment. In the center of the pediment, in bas-relief, stands the blessing Savior surrounded by four cherubs, the sun, and the moon. Another element attributable to Bramante is that the original church had a central plan, a feature based on his studies. The current plan, however, was slightly modified in the 1800s with the construction of a deep apse choir on the wall opposite the facade. The interior is also characterized by the central dome resting on four massive stone pillars.

What to see in Roccaverano: The Church of San Giovanni Battista

At the foot of the hill leading to the village is another top-notch artistic jewel: the Church of San Giovanni Battista. This church stands a few meters from the cemetery and was the parish church of Roccaverano until the construction of the Church of Santa Maria Annunziata. One might question why the former main church of the village is located outside the inhabited center. The answer is simple: during its construction (between 1000 and 1200), the settlement was precisely in that area. It gradually moved to the top of the hill after the construction of the castle, where there was greater security.

Today, the small church presents itself with a 19th-century facade but has retained many Romanesque (especially in the bell tower) and late-Gothic elements. The latter are due to the fact that, in the 1400s, the church was rebuilt and expanded, adhering to the artistic canons of that time.

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Facade of the Church of San Giovanni Battista (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The Frescoes

Entering through a small wooden door, you immediately notice pointed arch vaults, but above all, the frescoes. These cover the entire nave, but the eye is immediately drawn to those adorning the presbytery behind the altar. On the back wall, there are eight apostles set in fake niches (try deciphering the names written in Gothic calligraphy). On the side walls, there are scenes from the life of St. John, to whom the Church is dedicated.

What to see in Roccaverano - Church of San Giovanni Battista - Frescoes - Largest Gothic fresco cycle in the Province of Asti
Frescoes in the presbytery (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

The entire cycle of frescoes is considered the most complete and imposing in Asti province, although the authors are unknown. Scholars, however, are confident that multiple artists, all representatives of Ligurian-Monregalese painting in the late 15th century, contributed to the paintings..

What to see in Roccaverano: The Tower of Vengore

A few hundred meters away from Roccaverano lies the Tower of Vengore. This tower stands alone on top of a hill and represents the typical watchtower that one can easily come across in Langa Astigiana.

Cosa vedere a Roccaverano- Torre di Vengore-Colle di Vengore
Torre di Vengore (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)

From its top, one could easily monitor the Bormida Valley of Spigno and Acquese. Today, it is a destination for those who love breathtaking views, especially of the village of Roccaverano. After a recent restoration, it is now visitable, but you need to inquire with the Municipality of Roccaverano for more information

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Roccaverano from Colle di Vengore (credit to Matteo Marongiu)

Associated with the Tower of Vengore is a curious legend about its construction, involving some overly greedy inhabitants of Roccaverano. According to the legend, they built the tower to match the king’s power. Once erected, they began shouting ‘Vengo Re, Vengo Re!’ (I come, O King!)—from which the name Vengore supposedly originated. The story concludes, akin to the biblical episode of the Tower of Babel, with divine punishment, resulting in the tower standing there, in the middle of the countryside, majestic and unused.

Where to Buy Robiola and Village Events

More than for the village itself, which is attractive and engaging for its beauties, most visitors come to purchase and see where the Robiola di Roccaverano is produced.

Robiola di Roccaverano-cheese-breadsticks-Robiola di Roccaverano cheese protection consortium
Robiola di Roccaverano (Credit to Consortium for the protection of Robiola di Roccaverano cheese)

It’s not surprising that the consortium uniting Robiola producers has invested heavily in promoting this extraordinary product. Recently, the Roccaverano School was inaugurated in the old elementary school of the village, in Piazza Barbero. This place is not only a product purchasing center but a true gastronomic and cultural site. Here, you can organize visits to farms to discover breeding techniques and the secrets of Robiola production. If you don’t have time for such an experience, you can still buy Robiola in the grocery store and in the bar-restaurant on the main square.

Naturally, events related to the production of Robiola di Roccaverano also take place, attracting many tourists each year. Two particularly characteristic events are the Carrettesca Fair and the Caprine Exhibition. The former takes place on the last Sunday of June, bringing together all producers of D.o.p. Robiola. During this occasion, the best cheese is awarded, and all the Pro Loco of the Bormida Valley offer their typical dishes. The latter is a true goat exhibition where the best breeders are awarded, and you can learn about breeding techniques.

Now that you know what to see in Roccaverano, all that’s left is to decide when to visit. If you also want to stay, click here and discover the best accommodations at the best prices!

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what to see in Roccaverano
Explore hidden gems in the Langhe! Discover what to see in Roccaverano, a tranquil village untouched by mass tourism. Your unique adventure begins here!
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La Scimmia Viaggiatrice