Today we want: contemporary art, history, nature, panoramas and a good wine. Where do we go? To the Langhe! We allow ourselves to be guided by the panoramic paths of the country roads (do not take the highway!) and in about an hour we find ourselves on top of the hill of the Brunate vineyard in La Morra to admire with marveled eyes at a contemporary art work erected amongst the hills and greenery: the Chapel of Barolo. This chapel is a small, precious jewel that enriches and enhances the already naturally beautiful and unique panorama of this portion of the Langhe. It was built in 1914 to provide shelter to the workers of the vineyards in case of sudden bad weather: such as a thunderstorm, or a hailstorm. The chapel was never consecrated, nor used as a place of worship, and as time went by it deteriorated.
In 1970, the Ceretto family (which at the time was at the beginning of the viticulture activity that has now become a great success) bought the land of the Brunate vineyard, including the chapel. In 1999, the new generation of the family entered into the company and respecting the continuity with the family tradition, gave a touch of renewal to the company, starting down a path that would henceforth link the name of the Ceretto wineries to contemporary art.
As the first project in this direction, it was chosen the recovery of the Chapel of Barolo. In fact, the English artist David Tremlett, famous for his works of wall drawings, was called on to restore it. Tremlett accepted the invitation and involved another contemporary artist, another great exponent of conceptual art and wall drawings: the American Sol Lewitt. The tasks were divided: Tremlett dedicated himself to the interior with warm pastel tones reminiscent of the color of the panoramas surrounding the chapel. Lewitt realized the exterior with bright and vivid colors, and large wave patterns on the side walls to remind one of delicate undulations of the Langhe hills. The result is surprising: a beauty that takes your breath away!
Getting back in the car, we are ready for more breathtaking views, and with a short drive we arrive at Grinzane Cavour, a small town in the Langa of Barolo, famous for its imposing Castle. The first phase of construction of the castle dates back to the eleventh century with the realization of the quadrangular tower, desired by the Countess Adelaide, daughter of Ulric Manfred (a countess who married in her third marriage, the count Otto, a son of the ancestors of the Savoy family) of the Arduinic March that controlled these territories. Thereafter, there were several changes of ownership and different construction phases until reaching the beginning of the 1800s when the family of the Counts of Cavour acquired ownership of the castle and the surrounding vineyards.
The young Count Camillo Benso of Cavour, who would go on to become a founding father of a unified Kingdom of Italy, was sent here by his father Michael who was worried about his son’s reluctance to dedicate himself to a military career, to which he was destined, as a second child. Camillo, who was just 22 years old, was entrusted with the management of the castle, the land and the administration of the village of Grinzane: he was in fact sent here with the title of mayor. The town of Grinzane would add the name Cavour in 1916, in honor of its most illustrious mayor of the 19th century.
The castle is well preserved and inside there is an enthralling and interesting museum path that intertwines Cavour’s life with viticulture (to which he dedicated himself and, together with the Marchesa Giulia Colbert Falletti of Barolo, gave rise to the Barolo wine), with the search for and the importance of the white truffle of Alba, and with an ethnographic collection of craft tools from the past and typical household settings from the 1600s and 1800s from the land of Langa del Barolo.
Among the interior rooms, of particular note is the Hall of Masks, whose ceiling dating back to 1567 is wood decorated with painted panels reproducing portraits of famous people, heraldic coats of arms and allegorical figures. Also the Fresco Room, where the cross vaults are decorated with frescoes dating back to between 1600 and 1700 and reproducing 16th century paintings.
Outside, an incredible 360° view: the location of this castle is exceptional. The walk in the castle vineyard and the view from there are worth the trip alone!
And after contemporary and medieval art, history and local culture, why don’t we try some traditional local cuisine? To have an authentic experience we suggest you go to Roddi, a small town of just over a thousand inhabitants a few kilometres from Grinzane Cavour. Roddi is famous for having since 1880, the Truffle Dog University, where dogs are trained to look for the precious white truffles. Here, at the top of a staircase you will find the Trattoria Bar Roddi, a small, simple but exquisitely authentic restaurant. The cuisine is traditional and genuine (unmissable the agnolotti del plin – the small agnolottini typical of the Cuneo area – the Albese raw meat, the vitello tonnato, and the tongue in green sauce), the wines are excellent, even those of the house, the prices are honest and the service is quick and polite without being overly affected. In short, all authentically Piedmontese! An experience you can’t miss!
Now, since we are in the Langhe, one cannot miss out on a wine tasting: one Barolo and one Barbaresco … . Mmm … delicious… .. my husband adores Barolo but I, instead, prefer the Barbaresco, a little less complex, fresher, more … carefree! And you, which one do you prefer?
Where to stay in the Langhe:
Find the best deals on hotels, bed & breakfasts, resorts and camping grounds around the Langhe here.
Castle of Grinzane Cavour
Address: Via Castello, 5, 12060 Grinzane Cavour CN; +39 0173 262159
Hours: Open from 10am to 7pm, last admission at 6pm. Closed on Tuesday
Ticket Prices: full 6€
Chapel of Barolo
Address: 12064 La Morra, Province of Cuneo
Hours: always open
Trattoria Bar Roddi
Address: Via Nuova, 20, 12060 Roddi CN; +39 347 253 5495
Hours: Thu, Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon: 12pm – 3pm, 7pm – midnight; Tue: 12pm – 3pm; Wed: closed.