Type of activity
All year round
Provincial/Medium to low mountain area
Ente Turismo Langhe Monferrato Roero
15 h. 50 min
Piano Molini d’Isola
14057 Isola d’Asti AT
14048 Montegrosso d’Asti AT
SECTION 1 PIANO MOLINI D’ISOLA - AZZANO D'ASTI
The ‘Via del Mare’ begins in Isola d’Asti, near the centre (hamlet of Molini) and, in particular, at the point where it is possible to climb up to one of the most picturesque hamlets, which offer a stunning view of the valley. (the so-called ‘Villa di Isola’). From the Molini plain (125m metres above sea level) to the picturesque square of Isola Villa (250m metres above sea level), you will cross a steep and already landslide-prone site, where it is interesting to observe the forest and the view. Once arrived at Isola Villa, you can reach Piazza Giuseppe Gallo, an evocative viewpoint from which to observe a vast area of the Tanaro river area. You will immediately notice that the landscape changes between the heavily infrastructural and urbanised area of the plain and the hillside, where the historic core of this town offers spectacular views. The landscape will remain such even as you continue towards Mongardino (275 metres above sea level), through the hamlet of San Sebastiano, where the road, paved but not very busy, leads to the town of Roman origin, whose historical events are recounted in the book by one of its most illustrious citizens, Alfredo Don Bianco. In the hamlet of San Sebastiano, the chapel at the crossroads is a rest area and meeting point for the inhabitants. The hamlet of Madonna, characterised by a small 19th-century church with a brick bell tower next to the rectory, is also interesting.
After passing the built-up area – after about 1 km – you will continue through the hills characterized by the hills typical of this area, which cover almost all the undulating low hills between Mongardino and Vigliano.
Continuing along the trail, you will reach the town of Vigliano, 220m above sea level, where is the hamlet of Valmontasca, a major geological site characterised by numerous fossiliferous outcrops, the most popular of which is the one discovered in 1959, which brought to light the whole and well-preserved fossil skeleton of a Pliocene baleen whale about 8m long. The fossil is currently kept at the Istituto di Geologia e Paleontologia of the University of Turin. in fact, this area in Asti dates back to the Pliocene and has become known for the number of large and small fossil found here which have contributed to significantly detailing local history. The crest facing the hamlet of Sabbionera offers interesting views of the surrounding landscape, which is characterized, again, by vineyards and woodsalong the steepest slopes. Near the hamlet of Sabbionera, there is a new route (1A), which is described below. This route leads toMontegrosso-Montaldo and rejoins the trail a second time at Cascina Massiri. After about 2 km, the trail crosses the town of Montemarzo: the centre well represents a recurring building system in the Asti area with a crest aggregation, which is a unifying element for the main road and where all the entries are located, due to the shape of the hill. On the way to Azzano, you should stop to admire what remains of a semi-abandoned chapel, located in a panoramic area surrounded by greenery. You will then arrive at Azzano, the arrival point of this first section, which is characterised by a change in the landscape, with a gradual increase in cultivated and woodland areas and a decrease in the number of in vineyards, mainly due to the changes in gradient and the morphological characteristics of the hillside. The road that crosses it is in good condition. The area of Azzano is characterised by the presence of the Tanaro river, which affects its landscape and morphology: in fact, these are low sandy hills that become flatter south of the river, hills where poplar is the main and most common tree. The old town is particularly interesting from a historical and cultural point of view, as documented by several sources. The borgo, in fact, dates back to the 12th century; it is in this period that we find the first written historical evidence of the presence of a castle.
SECTION 1A HAMLET OF SABBIONERA – HAMLET OF MONTALDINO
Length: 4.80 km
Hiking time: 1 hour 10 min
Elevation: 55 m
From the hamlet of Sabbionera and from Cascina Massiri, the new route winds its way through a valley floor characterised by mixed crops and, in part, by woodland, to climb the opposite crest where, before reaching Montaldino, we recommend a stop at the local church, whose square offers interesting views of the landscape.
SECTION 1B CASCINA MASSIRI – CROSSROADS TO SECTION 01A
SECTION 2 AZZANO D'ASTI - BELVEGLIO
From the old town of Azzano, 204 metres above sea level, the trail continues continue for 1km towards the centre of Rocca d’Arazzo, dominated by Palazzo Cacherano, now the town hall, and former residence of the Cacherano della Rocca family. Next to it is a park from which you can admire a stunning view of the Tanaro valley and the city of Asti, which has earned the town the nickname ‘Balcony on the Tanaro’. The parish church of Santo Stefano and Genesio and the church of Santo Stefano and Santa Rita, dating back to the year 1000 and from which you can admire full views of the Alps, are also of major importance. Continuing on for about 4 km, the trail divides the wooded area from the valley floor, along the Tanaro plain, thus arriving at the intermediate point of the second section, the Parco Naturale di Rocchetta Tanaro, a nature park managed by the Ente Parchi with headquarters at the regional hostel and known for its naturalistic significance. It covers 123 hectares at an altitude of 110 to 123 metres above sea level. Morphologically, the area is part of the hill complex formed by the yellow sands of Villafranca and therefore subject to intense erosive activity. The park consists mainly of mixed oak woodland, especially oak and English oak. Of great naturalistic importance for the history of the Asti area was the study of the vegetation of the park.
Within the park, the ‘Great Beech’ is the most interesting natural-historical arboreal element: a centuries-old specimen more than 25m tall and with a crown more than 20m in diameter, which proves the existence of the ancient beech forests that characterised the last glacial period. Pacha Mama is a hostel located within the park that organises recreational and educational events. The second section, then, ends along the path that connects the Parco Rocchetta Tanaro and the municipality of Belveglio. Continuing along the route from the park southwards, the trail climbs up to Belveglio, after only 8.5 km. For the most part, the route is characterised by the same landscape features as the previous section. The Belveglio area is surrounded by hills covered with vineyards and wooded areas known for the production of white truffles, typical of Monferrato.
SECTION 3 BELVEGLIO - CASTELNUOVO CALCEA
From the hills of Belveglio, the trail heads south for about 7 km and, ascending higher in altitude, reaches the Vinchio area, 261m above sea level, known for its wine production and the many events organized to celebrate it. The town centre is particularly interesting, as it is the intersection of three roads of Roman origin (Ramaudio, Luparia and Fonsmagna). This predominantly hilly area is known for viticulture, as here both white and red grapes are grown. The Val Sarmassa natural area is also important. This is a typical Asti area, from both a palaeontological and naturalistic point of view, as well as for its landscape and historical-cultural heritage. Moreover, many of the stories told by Davide Lajolo, journalist and writer born in Vinchio, are set in these areas. Then, the trail crosses the municipality of Vinchio, whose first historical evidence dates back to 948 A.D., and continues for about 3.5 km towards the hamlet of Noche. From there, you can take new route 3A leading to San Marzano Oliveto. Finally, after about 6.5Km, the trail reaches the old town of Castelnuovo Calcea, where it ends. The name Castelnuovo comes from ‘Castrum Novum’ (new camp), while Calcea from ‘ad calcarias’, due to the nearby Roman road that had to be frequently reinforced and maintained. After the Gauls and Celts, the Castelnuovo area was ruled by the Lombards and the Franks. Before being ceded to the House of Savoy in 1735, it was part of the Duchy of Milan. The town is located in a panoramic area, from where you can admire the many hills covered with vineyards where some of the area’s most renowned products come from: Barbera, Grignolino, Cortese and Dolcetto.
SECTION 3A FRAZIONE NOCHE - CASCINA QUAGLIA
SECTION 4 CASTELNUOVO CALCEA - MONTEGROSSO D'ASTI
Castelnuovo Calcea is a place of major interest in the area, for the presence of vineyards and the shape of the hills sloping down towards the valley. Local wineries and their vineyards to the south-east of the town are particularly interesting, especially Cascina La Court, Michele Chiarlo’s winery, which has long bet on the landscape values and peculiarities of this area, with the organisation of artistic events featuring artists whose works have a lot to do with the landscape. All information on the winery’s activities can be found on its website, www.lacourt.it, where the initiatives and events organised by the winery are listed. These mainly consist of summer events, which are well known regionally and outside the region and attract many tourists. The first information about Castelnuovo Calcea dates back to 1342 when the ‘castle’ to which it owes its name was still there. Being strategically located – especially the built-up area – the town has been involved, over the centuries, in several fights and its ownership was transferred from one lineage to another many times. In the 17th century, following a revolt by the inhabitants, the castle was set on fire. Today, the remains of the complex are owned by the municipality, which has restored it over the years. ‘Angelo Brofferio’ cultural centre should also be mentioned. The section between Castelnuovo, Moncucco and Mombercelli is characterised by a quite varied landscape and offers both views of vineyards and peaceful wooded areas. Mombercelli, whose earliest information dates back to the age of the Lombard kingdom, is a town particularly interesting for its artistic heritage, such as the parish church dedicated to S. Biagio, (1605), the town hall (late 19th century), the Museo Civico d’Arte Moderna (MUSarMO), with works by representative artists of the 20th century in Italy and, finally, the Museo Storico della Vite e del Vino. After passing through the centre of Montaldo Scarampi, you will reach Montegrosso d’Asti, which is where the section and La Via del Mare end, and is also the departure point of the From the Langhe to Monferrato trail. In Montegrosso d’Asti, 240m above sea level, you can admire the picturesque old town with its local peculiarities and – above all – the evocative hilly landscape typical of the Val Tiglione, an area known for its hills, where the Barbera grape variety is grown, and for the events and activities connected with it. From there, you can also easily reach the 12th-century castle of Montegrosso, an example of how local historical culture and wine culture can merge into an even more important attraction. The castle, which is majestic due to its size and the presence of two watchtowers, now houses a winery and wine cellar. The municipality is also known for some important food and wine events held during the year, such as the Barbera Fair in May – Barbera is the most popular local wine – and the truffle fair in November.