Langhe Monferrato Roero

Castagnito - Oratory of the Holy Spirit

Castagnito (14,00 km)
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Highlights and tour details

Nothing in the Roero landscape seems to be left to chance. Where there is no vineyard, there is a hazelnut grove or an orderly planting of fruit trees. And then, near villages and farmsteads, there are kitchen gardens and splendid gardens, which extend beyond the walls of the villas and castles. 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. Il secolo del barocco e del rococò non ci lascia nemmeno lungo il percorso, perché svettano sui “bric” il massiccio castle of Guarene, quello - più austero - di Castellinaldo, e la dimora degli Alfieri a Magliano.

THE ROUTE

The walk starts uphill on the long flight of steps to the top of the hill on which the oldest part of Castagnito stands, with the parish church and - opposite - the Oratory of the Holy Spirit.

  • Apart from the beautiful Baroque façade made of brick, a material that characterises most of the historic buildings in the Roero area, we should not expect any particularly fine works in the Oratory of the Holy Spirit. We will find, however, a coherent ensemble of Baroque altars, frescoes and furnishings that tell the story of two confraternities, one male and the other female. These were lay associations of mutual assistance that played an important role in the community between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Just outside the village, we are among the vineyards, with beautiful views over the Tanaro plain and the foothills of the Langhe. The castle of Guarene captures the eye, and the Bric San Licerio is the best observation point of the Baroque residence of the Roero counts. Once in the village, in fact, we will discover that it can barely be seen from the narrow streets of the centre, as it is protected by high walls and reserved for the guests of the luxury hotel into which it has recently been transformed. The descent towards Guarene is then embellished by beautiful contemporary art installations, thanks to the presence in the village of a branch of the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation.

We leave the village, a panoramic balcony over the Langhe, to return to the rural landscape and discover 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.

And Vezza d'Alba is a village nestled at the foot of a rocky hill, the Rocca, which used to house another and more ancient castle of the Roero counts. We can see it on the ascent behind us, while opposite on the ridge are the Baroque spirals of the Oratory of San Rocco, just outside Castagnito. We have not gone too far from the village, and now we go around it, walking among the Arneis and Favorita vineyards, to descend into the San Giuseppe valley, where the houses of the hamlet are already in sight. We complete the loop by going back up to Castagnito through the vineyards once again, but not without catching our breath one last time in the shade of an oak tree at the solitary chapel of Santo Stefano del Maso.

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.

The Madernassa pear

The parent tree of this variety was born by chance from seed in 1784, and is probably a spontaneous cross between the Martin Sec pear and the wild pear tree. Why is it so special? Crunchy and suitable for cooking with wine and spices, it is the star of autumn cuisine. In peasant culture, because of its longevity - it keeps well after Christmas - it was an important source of vitamins during the long winters in the Roero. The original pear tree has not existed for many years, but all the plantations found today in the Langhe and Roero come from its cuttings.

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.

Other information

Devotional interest: Yes
Access by public transport: Yes
Disabled facilities: No
Provinces crossed: Langhe Monferrato e Roero

Notes on public transport
GTT Line 2014 Turin - Alba
https://www.gtt.to.it/cms/risorse/intercomunale/oraripdf/2014.pdf. School service only.
Departure, arrival and municipalities crossed
Departure and arrival
piazza Cesare Battisti
12050 Castagnito (CN)
Cuneo
see on map

Accomodations and services

Please note that the routes may include some sections where there is traffic.
The information contained in the pathways is not binding on the authors and verifiers of the pathways.