Dogliani, an important town on the Rea stream, is strategically located between the hills of Barolo and the bottom of the Tanaro valley, and can be considered as one of the doors of the Alta (High) Langa, although it is not part of any mountain community.
Historically, however, the Dogliani markets (cattle, truffles, milk and cheese) have always been a reference point for the people of the Alta Langa. Exploring the Alta Langa can therefore begin from the city of Einaudi.
Indeed, because the first President of the Italian Republic was born, lived and produced his own wine here; the main wine in Dogliani is the Dolcetto, and it is here that the Dolcetto has a dedicated DOC certification.
The town boasts other famous citizens such as Giuseppe Gabetti, author of the Royal March, Domenico Ghigliano, inventor of sulfur matches and above all Giovan Battista Schellino, an eclectic and original architect.
And it is with Schellino’s architecture that our itinerary in Dogliani begins: the imposing Parish, the Institute of the Sacra Famiglia and the monumental entrance to the Cemetery.
Dogliani is divided in two districts: Borgo (found at the bottom with a narrow, main road which is closed and still marked by the gates’ arches) and Castello, a maze of narrow streets in the fortress, with the beautiful Torre Civica which dominates the valley, and the medieval tower – Castle of Caldera.
Leaving Castello we continue our journey by following the Madonna delle Grazie Sanctuary pylons.
From there we arrive at Belvedere Langhe, with its castle ruins and unbelievable panorama.
And here you are, in Alta Langa and its myriad of small towns, villages, hamlets and isolated churches, perched on the hills of the Tanaro or Belbo Valleys, that await you. The ridge that separates them is also the most scenic route.
Practically every intersection, every road, every path deserves to be seen (preferably on foot, bike or horseback) and be prepared for some pleasant surprises.
The main centers are: Bossolasco, with its late medieval Palazzo Balestrino and the historic center invaded by roses and historical artistic banners; Murazzano, which in addition to giving its name to the well-known PDO certified cheese, preserves one of the most interesting historical centers (a must see are the remains of the only windmill in the Langhe) dominated by the beautiful square tower made of stone; Mombarcaro, whose 900 meters a.s.l. makes it the summit of the Langhe.
From there you can go down to the Belbo Spring Reserve for a hike amongst uncontaminated nature.
Or you can go hunting for Gothic frescoes, or even discover the Romanesque churches: San Pietro in Mombarcaro, San Frontiniano in Arguello, San Ponzio in Marsaglia and San Sebastiano in Paroldo; if you prefer towers and castles don’t miss out going to Marsaglia, Benevello, Cigliè, Albaretto Torre, Cravanzana, Niella Belbo, Castellino Tanaro, Rocca Cigliè and Sale delle Langhe.
Then of course there’s a relaxing stop at one of the inns with old signs painted on the walls or under the pergolas leaning against the houses overlooking the village square, where the local people play Balon, the game of the Langhe: the history of this elastic ball game was written amongst these crooked walls by anonymous, bygone heroes and true legends such as Ghindo, Manzo and Bertola. A pantalera (it’s a game similar to punchball which was once played in the squares and courtyards in lower Piedmont and the Liguria region) match in the piazza is still a unique, but quite social, sport.
A visit to the Fenoglio area also means a visit to San Benedetto Belbo, with its Benedictine Abbey and the Osteria di Placido (inn). From Belbo you can continue going uphill until you reach the grim Passo della Bossola and the Murazzano Cemetery; or you can go to Lunetta, an abandoned Mombarcaro hamlet, the archetype of every writer’s “Pavaglioni” or to the Cascina della Langa in Benevello: an isolated farmstead, perched high above the valley.
Whatever your itinerary may be, these hills will leave fond memories and the latent desire to return one day.