Acqui T. – Melazzo – Castelletto d’Erro – Montechiaro Alto – Pareto – Spigno M.to
Merana – Montechiaro Piana – Denice – Ponti – Bistagno – Terzo
The itinerary takes place along the ridge of the hilltops of the Bormida and Erro valleys scattered with medieval towers, testimonies of the feudal era, in a forested landscape and hillside scenery with the tuffaceous hills known as badlands.
From the Bagni area on the other side of the river Bormida, follow the SS. 334 road, direction Sassello and after 5km you will arrive in Melazzo. Continue straight on for a few more km until you reach “località Giardino”, turn right and follow the indications for Castelletto d’Erro and Arzello, cross a big iron bridge and the Erro stream. At the crossroads turn left for ARZELLO, a little hamlet part of the commune of Melazzo, surrounded by a beautiful rural landscape, that preserves in Gaini locality the Romanesque Church of San Secondo. The church’s most valued element is the beautiful semi-circular apse in local stone, on which three lancet windows open up. The inside is made up of a central nave, where next to the main altar four semicolons with cubic capitals are visible, that once separated the presbytery from the chapel.
From Arzello, return to the main road and continue towards Castelletto d’Erro where on the hilltop on the right hand-side lies the fifteenth century Castle of Montecrescente locally known as the « Tinazza » due to its polygonal shape, unfortunately now in an abandoned state. After various bends that offer some lovely panoramic views overlooking the Bormida valley and the Monferrato hills you’ll arrive in the village of CASTELLETTO D’ERRO (544 metres a.s.l.) with a spectacular panorama, where you’ll be enchanted by the fragrance of herbs, peaches and strawberries, culinary treasures of these valleys. The village is dominated by a well preserved watch tower, decorated at the top with hanging arches (13th century), surrounded by the ruins of the castle and a small rounded tower part of the walls. The parish of the Annunziata safely preserves precious paintings by Pietro Ivaldi known as “the Mute”, while the church of Sant’Onorato the oldest in the village, is a simple form with a rectangular apse. The patron saint festival of S. Anna takes place on the 3° Sunday in July.
The itinerary continues with a beautiful view overlooking the Erro valley before arriving at MONTECHIARO ALTO (570 metres a.s.l.) a charming village located on the hilltop where the castle once stood, destroyed in 1646 of which only a few ruins remain on the ridge that separates the Bormida valley of Spigno from the Erro valley. It preserves a lovely parish Church from late Renaissance period, with a fine rustic wooden pulpit from the same era and a beautiful holy water font, along with various medieval houses, and the oratory of Santa Caterina which houses a peasant’s museum. The patron saint is S. Giorgio (24th April). Local traditions include the festival of the « anciuada del Castlan » that takes place on the first Sunday in May, and recalls the historical commerce of salty anchovies. The local speciality is the formaggetta, a typical soft goat’s cheese from the Alto Monferrato and Langhe areas.
Continue on the road towards Montechiaro Piana, turn left after around 1 km and follow the signs for TURPINO, a hamlet of the commune of Spigno, located among a fascinating landscape of marly badlands, pine trees, wild chestnuts, meadows and brooms. Continue on the road towards Spigno, then turn left for PARETO (476 metres a.s.l.) situated on the border with the region of Liguria among woodlands of the Apennines. The village is built around the old Spinola Castle (16th century), with a lovely parish Church beside it dating from the 1600s, which presents a curved façade in a Ligurian baroque style and various other medieval buildings with loggette and under passages. The Patron saint is S. Pietro (29th June). Renowned are the mushrooms from the surrounding woodlands, and interesting places include the hamlets of Roboaro and Miogliola which lie deep in the Erro valley. Afterwards you’ll reach SPIGNO MONFERRATO (258 metres a.s.l.) a characteristic village with a medieval layout situated in a wide valley between marly hills at the confluence of the Valle and Bormida of Spigno streams. Of Roman origins, it was feud of the Del Carretto family and afterwards (1578) of the Asinari. In the highest part you may visit the eighteenth century parish of S. Ambrogio, and next to it the ruins of the castle. The patron saint is S. Ambrogio (7th December). Just outside the village across the other side of the Bormida river lies the thirteenth century bridge of S. Rocco, still preserved in its original form with a humpback shape, that once connected the abbey to the ancient via Aemilia Scauri which crossed through the village. This striking scenery was the background to many famous scenes in the film “il Diavolo al Pontelungo”. The ancient Abbey of S. Quintino, is incorporated onto a farmhouse, and still preserves the façade and rib vault bell tower at the top. In the existing chapel, are tombstones and fragments from the Roman era that were found in the surrounding territory, whereas in the attic in correspondence with the entrance wall, are various frescoes that date back to the 11th century. The itinerary continues along the SS 30 direction Savona and follows the Bormida valley in an undulating and barren landscape that already reveals the characteristics of the Langhe hills.
You therefore reach MERANA, situated at the far most borders of the Alto Monferrato area, characterized by steep, hilly wooded slopes and formations of marly badlands. To visit is the 14th century tower of San Fermo. Return towards Acqui following again the SS. 30 direction Alessandria / Acqui and you will arrive in MONTECHIARO PIANA, part of the Commune of Montechiaro. In the church, the baptismal font is preserved, a monolithic stone basin, belonging to the Romanesque country church of which the ruins remain near the present church.
Continue towards DENICE (387 metres a.s.l.) whose centre is arranged in a semi-circle with characteristic arcade houses, situated around a high tower decorated with a triple row of protruding small arches, once connected to the castle (now destroyed) of the Marquis Del Carretto. Patron saint San Lorenzo (10th August) first Sunday of August.
Return back on the SS 30 and you will arrive in PONTI (186 metres a.s.l), an old Roman post found along the via Aemilia, as testified by a memorial stone dedicated to Antonino Pio, preserved in the entrance of the Council. The village lies at the foot of a hill where the ruins of the Castle of the Del Carretto are found (13th – 15th century) and a little church, ex-parish church of the Assunta, with a fine Romanesque campanile. Patron saint San Sebastiano (20th January). In April the “polentone feast” takes place, a traditional gastronomic-folkloristic event, that recalls the distribution of polenta, omelette and codfish started over three centuries ago by the Del Carretto family.
From here continue for BISTAGNO, a characteristic village (180 metres a.s.l.) with a triangular plan, constructed in this shape by the Bishop of Acqui in 1253. Birthplace of the sculptor Giulio Monteverde (1837-1917) and the Statesman Giuseppe Saracco (1821-1907). The village preserves of its castle the triangular tower incorporated in a house which recalls a medieval structure, and the Baroque church of San Giovanni Battista with a porch portal on the façade lined by a pointed Romanesque-Gothic campanile, and inside a marble statue of the Madonna with baby Jesus, opera by G. Monteverde. To visit is the Gipsoteca – a Plaster Casts Gallery with precious works by G. Monteverde. Patron S. Giovanni Battista (24th June); In February the traditional Carnival takes place.
The itinerary continues travelling through the Bormida valley, until you arrive in Terzo. Turn left towards the highest part of the village situated on the hilltop in a panoramic position overlooking the valley (222 metres a.s.l.). From the medieval period it preserves the high square based tower, whereas the beautiful parish church dedicated to San Maurizio is from the 18th century. Patron Saint San Maurizio. Afterwards return back to Acqui centre (4km).
ella strada è la chiesa campestre della Madonnalta con un caratteristico porticato d’accesso costruito verso la seconda metà del sec. XVII sotto il vescovo Gozzano. Da qui si ritorna verso il centro città.