A Brief Description of the Most Interesting Places in the Langhe and Roero Region Near Alba
Are you in Alba and looking to explore the surrounding areas? Read on to discover what to see near Alba. You’ll be spoiled for choice!
Alba has long been known as one of Italy’s culinary capitals, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world who come to savor its delectable offerings, such as excellent wines, white truffles, and other traditional Piedmontese dishes. However, the lands surrounding Alba offer much more. Small villages, medieval castles, beautiful artworks, and landscapes shaped by human hands over centuries are the treasures waiting to be discovered. This article focuses on these hidden gems, beyond the typical culinary delights.
Now, let’s embark on a journey to explore what’s worth seeing near Alba.
What to See Near Alba: The Langhe of Barbaresco
The Langhe of Barbaresco is a tiny region bordering the province of Asti, comprising three municipalities: Neive, Barbaresco, and Treiso. Here, the Nebbiolo grape has been transformed into Barbaresco DOCG wine for centuries, known worldwide. However, this small part of the Langhe region is worth a visit not just for its wine, but also for the beauty of its landscapes and villages.
First, let’s talk about Neive, one of Italy’s most beautiful villages, offering historical and artistic richness.
Its cobbled streets are lined with magnificent noble palaces from various eras and significant monuments like the Ancient Clock Tower. A few kilometers away, you’ll find Barbaresco, the namesake of the wine, home to the Regional Enoteca where you can taste the wine within the exquisite setting of the former Church of the Archconfraternity of San Donato.
Don’t miss the opportunity to climb the Medieval Tower for a 360-degree view of the Tanaro Valley, Roero, and, on clear days, the Alps.
Treiso, on the other hand, is perfect for those seeking less touristy places and a reconnection with nature. It has retained the agricultural spirit that characterized the entire Langhe until a few years ago. If you love hiking, we recommend walking the path to the Rocche dei Sette Fratelli, a vast chasm carved by water over the centuries. Once you arrive, you’ll be greeted by a magnificent amphitheater, a large white basin surrounded by green trees – a spectacle only nature can offer
What to See Near Alba: The Langhe of Barolo
The second area we’d like to introduce is the Langhe of Barolo, known for the famous Barolo wine and its pioneering role in international tourism in the region. Let’s start with the village of Barolo, nestled in a valley surrounded by Nebbiolo vine-covered hills. Its historic center is a collection of trattorias and local eateries where you can savor traditional Piedmontese dishes.
There are also two unique museums:
- The Wimu Wine Museum, housed in Falletti Castle, where you can embark on an emotional and interactive journey through the world and history of wine.
- The Corkscrew Museum in Piazza Mazzocchi, featuring hundreds of corkscrew specimens in various shapes and materials. A peculiar yet fascinating place.
From Barolo, it’s easy to reach other nearby villages. The closest is La Morra, known for its stunning viewpoint in Piazza Castello, offering an incredible panorama of the entire Langhe.
In the same square, you can admire the Civic Tower, a symbol of the village, and the Winemaker’s Monument. La Morra also boasts two interesting churches for different reasons: the Church of San Martino, an imposing Baroque brick building with dramatic architectural decorations, and the renowned Barolo Chapel, also known as Cappella delle Brunate, fusing the history of local farmers seeking refuge for prayer and rest with contemporary art by David Tremlett and Sol Lewitt.
Another charming village is Monforte d’Alba, which has joined the ranks of Italy’s most beautiful villages in recent years.
Its historic center is perched along the ridge of a hill, with steep streets leading to the top where the town’s most important landmarks are situated. Here, you’ll find the Bell Tower, a true reference point for first-time visitors, and the Horszowski Auditorium, a splendid natural amphitheater carved into the hillside
In the summer months, it hosts an important international jazz festival, theatrical performances, and film screenings.
The Castles of Serralunga d’Alba and Grinzane Cavour
The Langhe of Barolo is also home to some beautiful castles that are worth a visit for anyone exploring the region. The first is Serralunga d’Alba Castle, with its soaring form dominating the surrounding territories.
This fortress is one of the most well-preserved examples of a 14th-century noble castle in Piedmont, reflecting its original structure. It was more of an administrative center for the Falletti Counts, highlighting their prestige, rather than a military stronghold.
Inside, you’ll find the courtroom where justice was administered and the castle chapel adorned with 15th-century frescoes..
The second castle is Grinzane Cavour, famous for hosting the World White Truffle Auction for years. However, we recommend visiting it for its historical significance and beauty.
Perched atop a hill, it offers a distinctive silhouette that dominates the surrounding landscape. Inside, you’ll find the Hall of Masks with its wooden ceiling decorated with 156 paintings of faces, coats of arms, and various allegories. Additionally, the Langhe Museum, located within the castle, provides insight into the trades and tools used in the surrounding countryside in the past. The castle also hosts an exhibition of artifacts related to Camillo Benso Count of Cavour, who was the mayor of Grinzane and initiated the production of Barolo wine with the help of French oenologists.
Diano d’Alba and Dogliani: Exploring Charming Villages Near Alba
A bit further from the well-trodden paths around Alba, there are two other unique and interesting villages. The first is Diano d’Alba, just a few kilometers from Alba. Its name is directly derived from the Roman goddess Diana, who was once worshipped in the sacred woods that covered the hill. In medieval times, an imposing castle was built on the hill, becoming one of the strategically most important castles in the area. Although the castle has been destroyed, it has left behind what we believe is the most beautiful viewpoint in the Langhe. At the summit, you can enjoy a 360-degree panorama of the entire Langhe and a significant portion of Roero.
Facing this viewpoint is the Church of San Giovanni Battista, a prominent symbol of the village with its striking bell tower and entrance portico. Inside, you’ll find frescoes and paintings by various artists associated with the House of Savoy, including Antonio Tempesta, Beaumont, and Claret. Furthermore, we recommend stopping by the Söri di Diano to taste Dolcetto di Diano d’Alba, a true delicacy
Continuing south towards Alta Langa, you’ll reach the distinctive village of Dogliani. Since the 1800s, the town has been transformed by the eclectic and neo-Gothic architecture of Giovan Battista Schellino. The main monuments, including the Church of San Quirico, the Bell Tower, and the Monumental Cemetery entrance, are excellent examples of Schellino’s work.
However, there are also some monuments dating back to before the 19th century that recall the village’s past. In particular, there are two medieval gates, Porta Soprana and Porta Sottana, and the beautiful Baroque church of the Confraternity of the Beaten.
What to See Near Alba: The Alta Langa
In the tranquil heights of the Alta Langa, extending beyond 500 meters between the Belbo and Bormida valleys to the Ligurian Apennines, you’ll discover a markedly distinct landscape compared to the famous Langhe. Fewer vineyards, more woodlands, and hazelnut orchards define the Alta Langa. Peace and tranquility reign here, making it an ideal retreat for those seeking relaxation.
The Alta Langa is dotted with small villages perched atop hills, each hiding unique treasures waiting to be explored. Among these, Bossolasco stands out, earning the moniker “The Village of Roses” due to the many varieties and colors of roses lining its streets.
In addition to its floral charm, the village boasts various works of art and monuments from different eras, including the “Angelo dell’Alta Langa,” a metal sculpture commemorating a notable event during World War II, and mid-20th-century shop signs created by artists.
Nearby, visit Sale San Giovanni, renowned for its lavender bloom from mid-June to mid-July.
Also explore beautiful buildings like the Pieve di San Giovanni and the Chapels of Santa Anastasia and San Sebastiano.
Other Villages in the Alta Langa
The Alta Langa is an endless collection of small hamlets and tiny fractions scattered throughout the landscape.
While listing them all would be exhaustive, here are some recommendations to delve further into the Alta Langa.
If you’re a fan of panoramic vistas, head to Albaretto della Torre and climb the tower to admire the splendid scenery.
Art enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to Serravalle Langhe, particularly the Confraternita di San Michele, housing splendid 15th-century frescoes.
For those who admire the literary works of Beppe Fenoglio, consider a visit to San Benedetto Belbo, where the author set two of his novels. A unique ring route through the village lets you experience the vivid stories of these remarkable works
What to See Near Alba: Bra and Pollenzo
Crossing the Tanaro River to explore Roero, we begin with Bra, often regarded as the “Capital of Roero.” Its historic center showcases a sequence of exquisite Baroque buildings constructed between the 17th and 18th centuries by local noble families. Notable landmarks include the Church of Sant’Andrea and Palazzo Traverso, two of the city’s main monuments. The former, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, boasts works by renowned Piedmontese painters such as the Beaumont and the Claret
Interior of the Church of Sant’Andrea (Credit to Matteo Marongiu)
he latter has been converted into the Archaeological Museum, housing intriguing artifacts from the surrounding region. For those who don’t mind a bit of an uphill walk, the Zizzola offers a panoramic view of the entire city..
Inside, you’ll also find the Casa dei Braidesi, a multimedia museum that tells the story of life in Bra over the centuries.
Within Bra’s territory, you’ll also find the fraction of Pollenzo. Once a major center in Lower Piedmont during Roman times, only a few visible remains harken back to that era. However, a significant portion of its historic center is dominated by neogothic architecture commissioned by Carlo Alberto, the King of Sardinia.
This includes the Church of Madonnina and the large architectural complex known as the Agenzia di Pollenzo, home to institutions such as the University of Gastronomic Sciences and the Bank of Wine.
The Museum Town of Cherasco
A short drive from Pollenzo, Cherasco is a captivating town with a rich artistic and historical legacy, earning it the title of a “Museum City.” Notably, Palazzo Salmatoris, a finely frescoed 17th-century edifice, played a pivotal role in several significant historical events
It once hosted the Shroud of Turin and a young Napoleon Bonaparte and later became the site of the Peace of Cherasco, which redefined the boundaries of the Duchy of Savoy in favor of the newly formed French Republic.
In Cherasco, you can also explore Palazzo Gotti di Salerano, home to the Civic Museum G.B. Adriani, housing historical artifacts from the surrounding area, an extensive collection of coins, and splendid 17th-century frescoes by Sebastiano Taricco.
Wandering through its historic center, you’ll encounter more architectural gems that reflect the city’s historical significance, including the arches lining Via Vittorio Emanuele II, particularly the Belvedere Arch. Also worth exploring are the neighboring Municipal Palace and Civic Tower. The monumental Sanctuary of the Madonna della Pace, adorned with works by Sebastiano Taricco, Giancarlo Aliberti, and Pietro Paolo Operti, adds to Cherasco’s cultural tapestry. If you’re fortunate, you might visit the Synagogue on rare occasions, one of Piedmont’s most important synagogues, preserving exquisite Jewish-style furnishings. The Visconti Castle, although privately owned, still offers a glimpse of its impressive exterior.
What to See Near Alba: Santa Vittoria d’Alba and Monticello d’Alba
Our journey through the Roero’s charming medieval hamlets continues with Santa Vittoria d’Alba. Evident traces of its medieval past grace the upper part of the village, highlighted by the prominent Castle Tower and Bell Tower. Hidden away is the village’s true gem, the Confraternity Church of San Francesco. Modest on the outside, this church houses a stunning cycle of 15th-century frescoes narrating the Passion of Christ.
This church, along with the nearby Church of San Rocco, can be explored independently through the Chiese a Porte Aperte app. The latter is adorned with beautiful trompe-l’oeil decorations and houses the tombs of feudal lords, along with a permanent exhibition dedicated to the town’s illustrious resident, Carlo Giuseppe Bertero, a physician, botanist, and physicist.
A few kilometers away lies another fascinating village, Monticello d’Alba, characterized by the presence of the Roero Castle, one of Piedmont’s best-preserved castles, still owned by the family that ruled Roero since the 14th century. The Roero family allows visitors to explore the castle’s most significant chambers, including the Armory Room, the Gallery of Paintings, and the Diana Gallery.
Of particular interest is the Chapel of San Ponzio, situated within the cemetery, which preserves 11th and 12th-century frescoes, the oldest in the region. As with Santa Vittoria d’Alba, this chapel is accessible through the Chiese a Porte Aperte app. The village itself retains a predominantly medieval and characterful appearance, particularly at the base of the castle.
What to See Near Alba: Govone and Magliano Alfieri
Among the rolling hills on the left bank of the Tanaro, you’ll encounter Govone, renowned for its Sabaudo Castle. This structure is part of the UNESCO-listed network of Savoy Residences, with a history dating back to the 18th century. The castle, which became property of the Savoy royal family, was extensively refurbished by King Carlo Felice and his wife Cristina. The royal apartments were created, and a grand hall—the Salone d’Onore—was adorned with finely executed mythological frescoes. Many visitors come to the castle to witness the “Chinese Rooms,” chambers decorated with original wallpapers imported from China, depicting scenes of tea, silk, porcelain, and paper production.
The castle is surrounded by two gardens, Italian and English, which were once more extensive. The Italian garden not only offers beauty but also stunning views over the village and the Langhe.
A short distance away, Magliano Alfieri is another village known primarily for its castle. In the 17th century, this fortress was converted into a noble palace and often hosted the young Vittorio Alfieri, who wrote fondly of it in his adult diaries.
Inside the palace, visitors can explore several attractions:
- The Hall of Coats of Arms and the Hall of Eagles, both adorned with splendid frescoes.
- The Gypsum Ceiling Museum, which explains how the local peasants used gypsum as a construction material and decorated it elaborately.
- The Landscape Theatre, a multimedia museum that tells the story of the peasant knowledge and the shaping of the Langhe and Roero landscapes as we see them today.
- The Chapel of the Holy Crucifix, accessible every day through the Chiese a Porte Aperte app. Also known as the Shroud Chapel, it boasts a splendid Baroque design with trompe-l’oeil architectural decorations by painter Pier Paolo Operti.
Other Places to Visit in Roero
As we conclude our tour of the places to see near Alba, we’d like to highlight a few additional locations scattered throughout Roero that particularly piqued our interest:
- Santuario dei Piloni, near Montà: Dedicated to Saints Filippo and Giacomo and nestled in the woods, this sanctuary features chapels depicting the Stations of the Cross, creating a pleasant trail with numerous viewpoints over the Roero and its “rocche.”
- Chiesa di San Servasio, Castellinaldo d’Alba: Situated on a high and steep “bric” (hill), this church offers a beautiful panorama of the area. Inside, you’ll find splendid 16th-century frescoes. While not always open, volunteers from the “Sentieri dei Frescanti” organization open it on some spring and summer Sundays
- Santuario della Madonna del Tavoletto, in the countryside around Sommariva Perno: This ancient sanctuary, nestled amidst woods and vineyards, contains captivating frescoes and artwork. If your vehicle has higher ground clearance, it’s better to park in the Rossi fraction and walk for 15 minutes. The sanctuary is open daily with the Chiese a Porte Aperte app.
Now that you’re familiar with the myriad of captivating places to explore near Alba, it’s time to plan your visit and immerse yourself in the rich history, culture, and natural beauty that this region has to offer.