Along the Tanaro River to explore the Rocche cliffs, medieval hill towns, Baroque castles and fruit orchards
Take the road leading out of Asti in a south-westerly direction, then continue in the direction of Borbore and Abbazia degli Apostoli, alongside large ‘cascine’ farm houses and through little woods. You are now heading in the direction of the Tanaro river, passing alongside the greens of the ‘Città di Asti’ golf club. Continue in this direction, between the river and Corso Alba road, until you get to the little hamlet of Variglie, with its castle and, in the summer, a special local variety of peach called ‘pesca limonina’.
Continue along the banks of the Tanaro, cutting out a large loop of the river and passing through the Asti lake zone, an area of special interest for those who are fascinated by river ecosystems. You will now have arrived beneath the cliffs (‘rocche’) of Antignano, in the Premes hamlet, another area of great natural interest. In order to get to the village of Perosini, however, we advise retracing your steps a few hundred metres and taking the path that leads along the top of the cliffs. From Perosini you cut across the Zecchino valley and climb up to Saracchi, a rural hamlet where Garibaldi once stayed with his last wife, who was born there. From here, it is a short stretch up to San Martino Alfieri, with its attractive castle which once hosted illustrious guests including Jean Jacques Rousseau and latter day saint, Giuseppe Marello. Continue along the hill-top road which will take you next to Govone, where you can join the East Roero path or, if you choose to descend towards the Borbore Valley, you will soon pass through the San Luigi hamlet and then arrive in the largest town of the Alfieri Hills area, San Damiano d’Asti.
This town is a medieval centre (‘villanova’), founded in 1275 by the Astigiani (inhabitants of Asti) to celebrate their victory over the municipalities of Astixio. San Damiano possesses an octagonal centre surrounded by reinforced walls and watch towers. For all lovers of trekking, the town’s satellite hamlets, distributed all around the main centre, form a naturally circular route around the Borbore Valley. The hamlets include San Giulio, Vascagliana, Torrazzo, Valdoisa and the afore-mentioned Lavezzole, and are all interesting to visit. Walk across the San Giulio hill, with its small Romanesque church complete with original bell tower and then, heading north, along a stretch of un-metalled road, followed by a section of main thoroughfare, in the direction of Tigliole. Once you have passed through the hamlets of San Giacomo and Pratomoro, at less than a kilometre from Tigliole, you will find yourself in a silent clearing outside the fine Romanesque church of San Lorenzo, nowadays often used for concerts and exhibitions.
Following on from here towards Ferrere, the woods become thicker and the paths steeper as you near the Roero. You pass by several hamlets, around the village of Cantarana, until you arrive at Serra di Balla, from where you continue to Ferrere, the ‘town of two castles’ and then on through the Valle del Pero valley to Gherba. From here, you enter a thick wood and then take the road to Scaglie which cuts across the main road and continues into the steep Valzeglio gulley (if you’re feeling tired, you can always carry on along the main road...). Up now towards Bric Belgrado near the town of Cisterna d’Asti, with its proud historical centre and castle which now hosts an interesting Museum of Traditional Crafts. From here, a splendid view over the Alfieri Hills, Langa and Roero can be enjoyed. You can now join the Sentiero del Roero (Roero Pathway) or return to Asti by bus.