Highlights and tour details
The departure point is the Oratory of the Holy Spirit in Castagnito, where the proposed narrative enlightens us on the activities of the confraternities in the 18th century, and especially on the role that women played in that context. Cycling allows us to have a full view of all the environments of the Roero region, from the villages perched on the hills, such as Magliano Alfieri, to the vineyards along the ridges, the orchards and the valley floor, home to ancient mills powered by the Sorso stream. The route is short enough to allow a visit to the two museums set up in the castle of Magliano, where Vittorio Alfieri spent his early childhood years. There are few real climbs, so the itinerary is also suitable for those who are not well trained.
We easily cycle along the first part of the itinerary, keeping high on the "bric", soft panoramic ridges that are cultivated with vineyards. From the dirt road at the top of Bric Granera, we can see Castellinaldo, which owes its name to the castle of the Ajnaldi family, lords of the village in the 12th century. Originally built for defensive purposes, it was later transformed into a noble residence, but retains a certain severity in its appearance. The Baroque castle of the Alfieri family in Magliano is more elegant and well-structured.
- We can choose whether to indulge in the pleasures of the table in the restaurant that is located there, or to nourish our minds with a visit to the two museums: they will reveal to us the rural landscape and the preservation of the memory of the peasant culture. In any event, it is worth looking out into the vast entrance hall for the view of the Tanaro valley and the Langhe, where the tower of Barbaresco stands tall.
We calmly and unhurriedly tackle the dirt road down to the valley floor. It is incredible how along the "via dei mulini" there is not even an echo of the traffic on the parallel SS 231 road, which connects Asti to Alba. We easily ride along a country but asphalted lane, among wheat fields, hazelnut groves and poplar trees. We find our first mill at the end of the descent: it is the mill of Magliano, the eighteenth-century Gallo mill, owned by the Alfieri Counts, then by the Visconti family. The second mill is the Lavandaro, built by the Roero Counts in the 17th century at the foot of Guarene. The Sorso stream still powers its wooden wheel, and it was in use until the 1950s.
All that remains now is to tackle the climb up to Castagnito, but it is on asphalt and is short. From the hamlet of Castelrotto we can return to admire the vineyards along pleasant ascents and descents. We pass by the farmsteads of Madernassa, a hamlet of Vezza d'Alba, the birthplace of one of its most prestigious products, the Madernassa pear. It is commemorated by a sign on the site where the first pear was grown.
A last stretch of dirt road and a climb bring us back to Castagnito. We leave our bikes and walk up to the Confraternity of the Holy Spirit, for a visit and a break in the silence and the twilight of what was once the base of the Battuti Bianchi (White Flagellants) and the Compagnia delle Umiliate (Humiliati religious order).
Points of interest
Confraternity of the Holy Spirit
A frescoed vault, three altars and choir stalls for the brethren, a gallery for the sisters: a snug and intimate interior is what you will see on opening the door. The church, built between 1708 and 1719 on the site of an older chapel, was the seat of several lay mutual aid societies operating in Castagnito since the 16th century. Next to one of the altars we also see the type of simple and unadorned garments worn by men and women engaged in charitable activities, in which people from all walks of life took part. The male brotherhood that owned the oratory was the White Flagellants, but the subjects depicted on the side altars, run by sisterhoods, refer to themes dear to female devotion. The Education of the Virgin, represented as a child reading about her high destiny with St Anne, her mother, protector of women in labour, is the theme of the right altar. The figure of St Elizabeth of Hungary, patron saint of bakers and health workers, is striking on the left altar, carrying roses in her lap. The flowers are an attribute of her holiness because they miraculously appeared in place of the loaves of bread she took from the royal table to give to the poor when her husband asked her to account for what she was hiding in her apron.
Castle of Magliano Alfieri
The Baroque residence was built by Catalano Alfieri in the mid-17th century on the site of several medieval forts. Today, owned by the municipality, it houses two museums. The first, the Teatro del Paesaggio (Landscape Theatre), is the result of the ethnographic collection work of the Gruppo Spontaneo di Magliano Alfieri (Magliano Alfieri Spontaneous Group) and its animator, Antonio Adriano. Thanks to the multimedia route we can understand, among other things, the evolution of viticulture over the last century, from vines intertwined with live trees in the medieval tradition, to the death caused by phylloxera in the mid-19th century, to modern plantings. The second museum illustrates the art of plaster ceilings, typical of the rural farmhouses of Roero, where this inexpensive and easily mouldable material is readily available thanks to carved wooden casts.
The Confraternity of the Holy Spirit in Castagnito will open its doors thanks to the Churches with Open Doors app, which is an automated opening and narration system for churches in Piedmont and Valle d'Aosta. Download the Churches with Open Doors app. For info: www.cittaecattedrali.it.
Departure, arrival and municipalities crossed
12050 Castagnito (CN)
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