Uomini e Lupi: Men and Wolves. This is the name of the interesting project created in the Maritime Alps, not far from Cuneo. The centre has two locations, a visitor centre in Entraque and an open-air enclosure in Casermette.
The visitor centre offers an itinerary exploring the presence of these animals in the world and their relationship with humans.
The voice of a narrator leads the visitor through four rooms: starting from a tent, where stories are narrated, we proceed to the bicycle room for a magical tour in search of wolves and the legends and myths that concern them. Then there’s a room with stories of smugglers and hunters and a cave with stories of shepherds and hikers and their encounters with these animals.
What these stories have in common is the awareness that wolves are neither good nor bad, despite all the fairy-tales that teach us to fear them. If a wolf kills it’s because of its instinct, like all other animals.
The Casermette enclosure is an eight-hectare area, which hosts several wolves that were either injured in the wild or were born in captivity.
Through a tunnel, visitors reach an observation tower from which part of the enclosure can be seen. Wolf sightings are rare because of the animals’ tendency to keep away from humans but close circuit cameras allow visitors to see and observe them.
While walking through the tunnel visitors will discover the world of wolves and learn about their social behaviour and hunting strategies.
Most of the material shown in the introductory movie and in the several photos was collected thanks to the observation of Ligabue, a young male wolf who was tracked on his way from the Apennines to the Alps.
If you enter Centro Uomini e Lupi with Little Red Riding Hood or The Three little Pigs in mind… well, you might have to change your attitude dramatically! The Centre does not provide answers to the question “can men and Wolves live together?” but offers the opportunity to build an informed and documented opinion. It is definitely an opportunity to spend a day to remember alongside these mystical animals.
The Centre is open from June to December. Opening times vary so check the website for details.Any suggestions?
The imposing water-powered filatoio (silk mill) in Caraglio was built between 1676 and 1678 shortly before the development of the silk industry in the province of Cuneo.
It was commissioned by industrialist Giovanni Girolamo Galleani, who had already set up Piedmont’s first hydraulic circular throwing mill in Venaria, near Turin.
This new type of machine achieved a higher output and better and more consistent quality compared to pre-existing machinery in the area.
The silk mill, which looks like a fortified manor house and is unusually richly decorated for a factory, was probably designed by one of the architects who had worked with Castellamonte on the mill in Venaria.
The plant consists of the spinning mill, where the silk was unwound from the cocoon through a procedure known as reeling, and the throwing mill, where the silk was thrown or spun.
There were also residential quarters, a carriage house, a greenhouse for flowers and lemon trees, a granary and silkworm breeding rooms.
Production continued until the early 1940s when the mill was closed and the premises abandoned. The dilapidated building was purchased by the Caraglio Municipal authorities in 1999 and completely renovated.
All machinery and rooms were rebuilt to host the Silk Museum and today, an additional section houses the CESAC (Centro Sperimentale per le Arti Contemporanee), a large display area for exhibitions of contemporary art.
Guided tours lead visitors through the different areas of the complex and provide interesting information about the silk production process and the silk industry in general, while the museum of contemporary art can be visited independently.
Just 30 minutes from the Piedmont city of Cuneo, the small town of Villar San Costanzo, population just 1,492 inhabitants, is nonetheless a popular tourist destination in the region because of its proximity to the “Ciciu” Nature Reserve.
This curious locale, administered by the Marguareis Park, protects a unique collection of natural morphological formations that bear an uncanny resemblance to mushrooms. The “Ciciu” – which translates to pupazzo or puppet in Italian – Reserve comprises 479 of these formations, varying in height from half a metre to as tall as 10 metres, in an area of just ¼ of a square kilometre.
The ciciu, which are the result of an erratic process of erosion, took shape at the end of the last Ice Age.
Flooding caused by glacial melting eroded portions of the nearby Maira Valley’s Mount Saint Bernard. The massive amounts of debris that came down the mountain with the floods gradually accumulated under the water’s surface; this is the rock that makes up the lighter coloured bases of the ciciu.
Darker coloured accumulations provoked by earthquakes and rockslides subsequently covered the original alluvial base entirely. However, sudden and significant tectonic movements that occurred during the Pleistocene Era caused the river’s elevation to drop, and the subsequent erosion that took place revealed the river’s original, lighter coloured base and created the ciciu’s unique shape.
This process of erosion, which took place over many tens of thousands of years, continues in modern times, albeit at a much slower pace. This will most likely result in the eventual destruction of the current structures, but also the formation of new ciciu.
The Nature Reserve provides the public with many opportunities to learn about the ciciu in depth while protecting the area and ensuring that these natural geographical processes continue unimpeded.Any suggestions?
The Certosa di Santa Maria in Valle Pesio, located about 10 kilometres from the small community of Chiusa di Pesio in Italy’s Piedmont region, has stood at its current site since the year 1173.
The structure was constructed on the initiative of Prior Uldrich of the Certosini Order in the name of the Virgin Mary and Saint John the Baptist. Uldrich subsequently became prior of the Certosa di Pesio in the year of its official foundation, 1199.
The monastery was active between 1199 and 1350, and subsequently abandoned through the 15th century.
Throughout the centuries, the site was subject to continued attacks and aggressions from the local population because of land disputes, which led to repeated and significant structural damages, as well as pillaging of the Certosa’s collection of religious objects. In the 16th century, the aggression was such that it required military intervention from the House of Savoy.
Despite conflicts and periodic abandonment, the Certosa and its monks played an important role in the area for what regards agricultural development, the construction of roads connecting important area locales, and even the foundation of several small towns in the area, including Pradeboni, Vigna and San Bartolomeo della Certosa.
The land that composes the modern day Marguareis Natural Park, located near the monastery, was well preserved throughout the centuries thanks in large part to brothers of Certosa di Pesio.
Beginning in 1934 the structure underwent an important restoration. Today, La Certosa di Pesio remains active and is managed by its religious inhabitants.
The Alpine region of Italy’s extreme northwest is home to some of the country’s most stunning natural landscapes. Indisputable historical evidence indicates that this area has been inhabited since pre-historic times, and each era has left its unique mark.
Today, much of this pristine territory benefits from the protection of an extensive national park system, making this rugged land accessible to the greater public while defending it from overdevelopment or environmental damage, thus ensuring that future generations may enjoy the region for centuries to come.
The Maritime Alps Natural Park (Parco Naturale delle Alpi Marittime) was originally founded in 1980 as the Argentera Park, named for the area’s highest peak, Mount Argentera.
Prior to coming under the tutelage of the national park system, this area was designated for more than a hundred years as the Royal Hunting Reserve of Valdieri-Entracque, originally instituted by Victor Emmanuel II of the House of Savoy in 1857. In 1995, the park was expanded to include the territory of the Palanfrè Forest and Lake Nature Reserve, making it the largest protected park in the Piedmont region, totalling 28,455 hectares.
The park is a botanical treasure chest, boasting more than 2600 individual species of flora – nearly half the species present in the entire country of Italy – as well as a rich assortment of fauna. While tourism to the area was slow to develop in comparison to other sections of the Alps, visitors to park have no shortage of options to fill their time in any season. The region’s proximity to both the capital city of Turin and the Ligurian Riviera make it an ideal vacation spot.Any suggestions?
The tears of Venus fell on Peveragno, or so the story goes. After the death of Adonis, Venus’ flood of tears landed on Peveragno and turned into small red hearts.
Luigi Macagno (Louis da Ressia) planted the first crops of these exceptional berries brought to Peveragno by French immigrants. The first variety, Madame Moutot, grew quickly in popularity and from the 50s onward cultivation spread rapidly. The local soil gave the berries an incredible taste and, when the first variety was abandoned, new strawberries with firmer flesh and better organoleptic qualities were grown.
Today 2 types of strawberries can be found in Peveragno: floricane which accounts for 85% of total annual production and perpetual which makes up the other 15%.
Peveragno strawberries can be found in markets during May and June (Floricane variety) and from July to October (Perpetual variety). Beautiful, luscious and bright red, you can identify true Peveragno strawberries at your local market by their label.
These edible gems are particularly sought after thanks to their outstanding herbal-medicinal qualities, as well as their incomparable and characteristic taste.
These berries have become so popular, in fact, that every year the town of Peveragno (Cuneo) hosts the annual strawberry festival (May/June) where growers and fans celebrate one of the undisputed queens of wild berries. There is even a strawberry museum where enthusiasts can learn more about this heart-shaped gem full of flavour and health benefits!Any suggestions?
Pietraporzio is a miniscule community of just 95 inhabitants located high in the Stura Valley of Italy’s extreme northwestern Alpine territories, about 15 kilometres from the border with France. A stunning beauty not known to many, this village is a real jewel of the Maritime Alps.
The name and history of Pietraporzio are very old - according to some historians even as old as ancient Rome. In fact, during the Roman period, proconsul Porzio supposedly passed through the town with his army, thus giving the rocky ('pietra' means stone) village its name. According to others, the name derives from a boulder with a particular shape which can be found at the beginning of the village. This boulder shares the unfortunate resemblance to the back of a wild boar, which would explain the similar-sounding name, with 'porco' meaning pig in Italian.
Pietraporzio develops along the banks of the river Stura, giving the hamlet's small houses a picturesque and unique setting. The oldest part of the village is an area called Saretto: here, some old houses decorated with arched openings and built in local tufa stone are still visible. On the Vilar plateau, inside the cemetery, stands the old bell tower of "Catre Loupes" so named for the presence of animal figures at the top of the tower.
The present parish church of Santo Stefano was built towards the end of 18th century to replace the old one that stood more to the side of the "Catre Loupes" campanile.
Despite its tiny size, Pietraporzio boasts an outsized variety of draws to the area.
For example, the town’s Eco-Museum of Pastoralism, opened in the year 2000 as part of a general effort to revitalize the local economy, pursues the dual-effort of illustrating to visitors the culture and traditions surrounding sheep-farming in the Stura Valley, while dedicating resources to the protection and valorisation of the Sambucana sheep that is typical of the area. The museum features exhibition spaces, a creamery used by local farmers for the production of sheep’s cheese that is also open to the public for didactic workshops, areas for organized tastings of this local delicacy and a shop selling alimentary and Sambucana sheep’s wool products.
Nonetheless, what we love most about Pietraporzio is the village's incredibly romantic feel. It does not require any great stretch of the imagination to conceive of the area’s natural beauty.
Indeed, Pietraporzio is an ideal base for exploring the area’s many Alpine trails, either on foot, or with cross-country skis during the long winters. Several restaurants and an assortment of lodging options ensure that tourists planning a mountain getaway have no shortage of options available to them.Any suggestions?
In the town of Castelmagno (Cuneo), you’ll find a cheese that was once worth its weight in gold. Historical records point to the year 1277 in which the town of Castelmagno was ordered to pay an annual fee to the Marquis of Saluzzo. Rather than being asked to pay in gold or money, the fee was to be paid in two forms of the town’s famous cheese, Castelmagno.
A semi-hard cheese, Castelmagno can be found in forms between 15-25 cm. wide and usually weighing between 2-7 kg. The forms have a thin outer while the cheese itself varies in colour from a slightly yellowish white to a golden yellow with rare veins of green if the forms are well-aged.
Castelmagno is mainly produced with cow’s milk from two consecutive milkings done at dusk and then again at dawn. On occasion the production can be supplemented with goat or sheep’s milk, but never more than 20%.
It is a cheese that in widely-used in Piedmont high-cuisine in various dishes, most notably, potato gnocchi topped with melted Castelmagno or risotto with Castelmagno. It also makes an excellent table cheese served plain or with honey and some claim it is superior to its better known cousin, Parmigiano.
Every year in the Valle Maira area annual fairs are held in which Castelmagno cheese is one of the main products under the spotlight: give it a try and taste for yourself!Any suggestions?
Located in the small town of Busca, a mere 15 kilometres outside of the Piedmontese city of Cuneo, the 19th century Roccolo Castle castle is a splendid example of the Neo-Gothic Revival style that was heavily promoted by the House of Savoy at that time.
The site’s name derives from roccoli, which were the nets used for the hunting of small birds in the period during which the castle was built.
The Marquis Roberto Tapparelli of Azeglio acquired the structure and completely refurbished it in Neo-Gothic Revival style in the year 1831, after which he and his wife Costanza Alfieri used the castle as a summer residence for the remainder of their lives.
In the decades that followed, the couple oversaw the construction of two additional edifices nearby, first a chapel, completed in the year 1842, and subsequently an impressive conservatory that was finished in 1850.
The park surrounding the castle measures 500,000 square metres and was designed in a style that weds features of both Classical and Romantic gardens. It features a rich network of paths dotted with statues and panoramic viewpoints, as well as grottos, a lake and numerous hidden corners to explore.
The attention given in the construction of the castle and park made it an attractive destination for several noteworthy guests, including Queen Margherita, wife of King Humbert I of the Savoy, who spent several summers at Roccolo, as well as writer and poet Silvio Pellico.
Today, the castle and park are open to the public for visits and may also be rented for private events.
The former church and monastery of San Francesco can be found in the central Piazza Virginio in Cuneo. Once an important religious centre run by Franciscan monks, it was built between the 13th and the 17th century.
Completely restored in 2011 by the Cassa di Risparmio di Cuneo Bank, it currently houses the historical and ethnographical collections of the Civic Museum.
Remains of the original 13th century chapel are to be found in the archaeological displays along the left nave: an itinerary along glass floors allows visitors to walk along the church and see the remains of the ancient structure and the various layers of floor dating back to different ages.
The present church, which is a unique example of Piedmontese Gothic, was completed in 1583 with the financial aid of notable Cuneo families and was further renovated during the 17th century. It has three naves and a number of side chapels containing several family tombs and interesting frescoes.
The façade has an imposing 15th century stone gate depicting the town emblems and terracotta decorations on the upper cornice and the pinnacles.
The 15th century crucifix has been moved to the Borgo San Giuseppe Parish Church while the beautiful marble tombstones erected for Knights Massimiliano Corvo and Gaspera Malopera have been restored and placed in their original positions in the side chapels.
Much damage was done to the church during the Napoleonic occupation, when the complex was used as barracks and most of the furnishings were stolen or sold. The convent was finally abandoned by the Franciscan friars in 1851 and the church was later used as a warehouse by the Cuneo military district.
Today, thanks to the recent renovation, concerts and events take place in the church, which can be visited as part of the museum. Make sure you don’t miss this beautiful complex during your next trip to Cuneo.Any suggestions?
Brus, also known as Bros or Brös, is a Piedmontese mixture of cheese and grappa which in former centuries, was prepared to avoid wasting cheese that was no longer fresh.
It is typical of the Cuneese and the Upper Langa region, although similar varieties can be found in Liguria. Its poignant flavour gave rise to the proverb “Only love is stronger than Brus” and strong it is indeed, so that some people love it but others prefer to keep away from it!
Brus has a long and consolidated tradition: the ricotta version is considered a typical Piedmontese product and its characteristics are outlined in a 2002 bulletin by the Piemonte Region. There are of course several varieties of Brus and each is made from a different kind of cheese.
In general, it is a fermented dairy product, made from leftover robiola cheese, often stale or mouldy, which is left to ferment with grappa, pepper or herbs in an earthenware container (the tupinà) for around two to four days. During this first phase it should be covered with olive oil and stored in a cool place. Once creamy, the mixture is worked by hand or with a wooden spoon and then left in a covered container for another 30-40 days.
Despite its poor origins, todays Brus is a gourmet favourite, often found in typical Langhe restaurants, where it is served on bread croutons or with grissini. It can also be used to prepare delicious cheese pies or savoury appetizers or as a sauce for pasta or gnocchi.
If you are getting curious you might want to head to Frabosa Soprana in August for the yearly event "Sagra della Raschera e del Brüss". For the last 42 years, these two typical products have been celebrated and offered to visitors during the days of the fair, together with other regional products.
Details on the event can be found on www.comune.frabosasoprana.cn.itAny suggestions?
Vinadio’s present day church was built between 1680 and 1681, although documents recording the presence of a small chapel with pilgrims' accommodation in the area date back to 1307. In 1443 the church, by then an important though small religious centre, was dedicated to Saint Anne, who is believed to have appeared to a shepherdess not too far away from the church (the so said "Apparition Rock", containing a statue of the saint, can still be visited today).
Saint Anne (from Hebrew Hannah meaning "favour" or "grace") was the mother of the Virgin Mary. Her story doesn't come from the New Testament but only from later literature.
Joachim and Hannah were a rich but childless couple. Both Hannah and her husband cried to the Lord to grant them a child, promising to dedicate their child to the service of God. Their prayers were heard. An angel came to Hannah and said: "Hannah, the Lord has looked upon thy tears; thou shalt conceive and give birth and the fruit of thy womb shall be blessed by all the world". Hannah then gave birth to a daughter whom she called Miriam (Mary).
Following the apparition the sanctuary became more and more popular with pilgrims so that further buildings were added throughout the centuries. During WWI and WWII it was used for military purposes and a after the wars, renovation works brought the buildings to new life.
Today the sanctuary, which, at 2035 metres above sea level is considered the highest sanctuary in Europe, is again a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists alike. It offers accommodation between June and September and in its restaurant you can relax and enjoy a simple lunch or dinner at very reasonable prices.
Access is by car or by foot on the Sant'Anna Pilgrimage Route, a 4 hours walk surrounded by imposing mountains and magnificent landscapes. For a different experience head to the sanctuary in May 2016 to watch the Giro d'Italia bike tour and marvel world-famous athletes as they climb the mountain to reach the top. For details on religious services and events check the sanctuary's website.
Limone Piemonte is the most important ski resort in the Province of Cuneo and one of the oldest in Italy. Thanks to the arrival of the railway in 1891, and to skis in 1897, Limone Piemonte became an attractive place to be, also due to the vicinity of elite localities such as Sanremo, Monte Carlo and Nice.
Today, Limone Piemonte hasn’t lost its magic and forms part of the Riserva Bianca ski area in Colle della Tenda, along with Limonetto and Quota 1400. It offers more than 80 kilometres of slopes at an altitude of 1,050 to 2,100 metres, with the benefits of natural snowfall during the entire winter season. Most of the slopes are also equipped with artificial snow makers, should it be necessary, allowing for absolutely safe skiing even with a minimum amount of natural snow.
The many slopes present various levels of difficulty, of course, so as to satisfy as many skiers as possible, from baby slopes (blue) to red and black slopes and the infinite fuori-pista, attracting many an adventurer. The younger ones can have fun at the Kinder Park and the Villaggio Gogolandia where activities for children abound.
Thanks to the new ski lift system funded by the 2006 Torino Winter Olympic Games, the Riserva Bianca has become an authentic skiing paradise and maintains its glory as one of the most prestigious ski resorts in the Alps.
Fun Fact: The name (Limone Piemonte, which in English translates to “Lemon Piedmont”) has absolutely nothing to do with the citrus fruit, although the fruit has appeared on the communal emblem for over three centuries. Limonus derives, on the other hand, more than likely from the Celtic limo, meaning elm tree, as this particular tree has always been present both in Piedmont and France.Any suggestions?
Located 1761 metres above sea level in the Grana Valley of the Western Alps, the Sanctuary of Saint Magnus (Santuario San Magno, in Italian) is an important religious site for pilgrims and tourists alike and an idyllic mountain locale.
Historical evidence confirms that the site, located in Castelmagno, about 30 kilometres from the city of Cuneo, was originally used for pagan rituals in the centuries prior to the widespread Christianization of the area. Subsequent testimony indicates that the first construction in the name of the martyr Magnus was completed on this site in the 15th century.
Throughout the centuries, the site was continually modified and enlarged in keeping with the growth of the local Cult of Saint Magnus.
In the late 17th century, periods of famine and diseases decimated the animal population on which the livelihood of area mountain residents depended. In response to these difficulties, pilgrims and followers of Saint Magnus flocked to the area in unprecedented numbers, hoping their prayers would be heard.
The site quickly proved incapable of keeping pace with the demand and thus, in the year 1716 work on a new, much larger sanctuary was completed; this is the structure still open to the public today.
The Sanctuary of Saint Magnus is located along an important long-distance hiking trail known as the Grande traversata delle Alpi or GTA, and offers food and shelter to hikers who are passing through. Religious pilgrims or even just tourists looking for a unique travel experience in the Italian Alps may also lodge here.
The Sambucano sheep breed has lived exclusively among the high peaks of the Stura Valley Alpine region of Piedmont for centuries and is prized by local inhabitants for its wool, its meat and its milk.
The sheep’s natural diet of hay and grass native to the valley, as well as its genetic composition characterized by a dense muscle mass with very little fat streaking, results in a meat with an exquisite flavour that is considered a local delicacy. Its milk is traditionally used in the production of a cheese, the tuma, also a local favourite.
In the year 1985, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization classified the breed as “vulnerable”, when it was determined that just 80 of them remained in the region.
In the decades that followed the breed has flourished once again, thanks to the concerted effort of organizations such as the Escauron Consortium and the Slow Food Foundation to protect and restore value to the products made from the Sambucano sheep. Today, the Stura Valley is home to 5000 sheep, to which every year more than 10000 lambs are born.
The Diocesan Museum of San Sebastiano (Saint Sebastian) lies in the Contrada Mondovì, in the heart of the historical centre of Cuneo; a quiet pedestrian area with covered walkways and shops.
The museum exhibits almost exclusively works of art that bear relevance to the San Sebastiano complex. The suggested itinerary goes through the devotions of the ancient confraternity and narrates a significant story of spirituality, history and society.
It begins in the Middle Ages when the Diocese was dedicated to San Giacomo (Saint James), with its abundance represented by pilgrims and pilgrimages, passing through the veneration of the relics of the saints. In the 16th century, the ancient confraternity merges with that of San Sebastiano, defender against the plague. The city begins to build defences and passers-by are no longer considered someone to give shelter to but as hostile foreigners or transmitters of the plague.
The subsequent Counter-Reformation coincides with the great Baroque Period, which here is expressed through the worship of the Madonna del Carmine (Our Lady of Mount Carmel), through processions, questionings about the afterlife and an updated interpretation of the Church.
Then we move on to the 19th century where the Napoleonic Wars mark the end of one society, and at the same time, the beginning of another. The itinerary ends with the founding of the Diocese as Pope Pius VII passes through town.
Interesting fact: Chocolates dedicated to Saint Sebastian- the so-called baciotti di San Sebastiano - can be purchased and enjoyed at the nearby café, also dedicated to Saint Sebastian!Any suggestions?
The origins of the curious tradition of anchovy selling in the Maira Alpine Valley are not entirely clear, but the most probable of several theories holds that it was strictly linked to the region’s salt trade.
This mountainous area is notoriously salt poor, making localized production impossible and importation necessary.
Historically, the salt trade was fraught with high costs and complications, and smuggling was a common practice. One technique used to fool customs inspectors as to the true contents of salt distributers’ barrels and thus avoid steep customs duties, was to conceal the salt with a thick layer of anchovies. However, it quickly became apparent that the anchovies, in addition to the salt they were hiding, had the potential to be quite lucrative; the former were sold at a lower price as a condiment to the less wealthy, while the latter was distributed to richer families. Ultimately, the anchovy trade became more prominent in the area, as it was associated with far fewer risks than salt smuggling.
Anchovy sellers procured their goods from seaside communities in the neighbouring Liguria region. Using traditional blue carts known as caruss - most of which were made in the miniscule community of Tetti, outside Dronero in the Maira Valley - they wheeled the anchovies among markets and towns across the region, often covering up to 30 kilometres a day. The anchovy sellers worked during the winter months, scraping together additional wages that helped them and their families survive the long seasons during which their traditional agricultural work bore no earnings.
Although there are records of a few success stories – men who in the 20th century managed to modernize their trade and tap into national and international markets – for the most part, successive generations did not widely continue this laborious practice.
Today, very few traditional anchovy distributers populate the Maira Valley’s markets. However, local associations seek to document and preserve the memory of this occupation, which represents a unique piece of the area’s commercial and culinary history.Any suggestions?
The epicentre of the Province of Cuneo’s noteworthy artisanal wood production is located in the Varaita Valley.
That this area in particular became so important to the industry can be attributed in large part to the work and passion of a few, noteworthy master artisans, including Giuseppe Beoletto and Franco Boerio.
The tradition of wood carving in the Cuneese dates back centuries, but these men began their work in the 1950’s and 60’s, when levels of wood production in the area were average for this part of the country. However, they promoted and distributed their creations at markets and fairs, and founded the region’s first important companies, bringing the artisanal woodwork of Cuneo to the eyes of both the national and international public.
The industry subsequently flourished in the 1970’s, in response to a failure to sufficiently develop the area’s winter tourism sector and the need enhance the local economy through other means. During this period, the area’s traditional woodworking methods and techniques were revisited and updated; emphasis was placed on making them more sustainable and better suited to modern tastes and methods of distribution.
Widespread success quickly followed and furniture, handmade toys, and musical instruments were widely exported from the area.
Today, there are nearly 90 companies active in the production and distribution of artisanal wood products in the Varaita Valley, and the Piedmont Region has officially recognized and protected the area as the “district of wood” since the year 2002. Artisans continue to employ traditional geometric shapes and intricate etchings and carvings as common forms of decorations, combining history and innovation to create a unique modern product.Any suggestions?
Set in the southernmost part of the Alps – the so-called Maritime Alps, linking mountain and sea, north and south – is where the Forte Albertino, also called Forte di Vinadio, stands.
Building of the fort began in 1834 by orders of King Charles Albert of Savoy on a very strategic position, from which it was possible to block the passage of French troops coming from the Colle della Maddalena. The project destroyed most of the original village and lasted only 11 years. At a certain point about 4000 men were involved in the construction of the fortress and though the costs and sacrifices were great, it was never actually put into its right use. All we know for sure is that it was used as imprisonment for hundreds of Garibaldini, taken prisoners during the battle of Aspromonte.
This fortress is considered to be one of the most important examples of military architecture in the Alps, and it is the only one which actually encapsulates an entire village – Vinadio.
The Forte Albertino runs for about 1,200 metres in a straight line and an itinerary of about 10 kilometres twists and turns on three walking levels and is divided into three frontlines: the Fronte Superiore, the Fronte d’Attacco and the Fronte Inferiore.
The Fronte Superiore and Inferiore are mainly composed of casemates, whereas the Fronte d’Attacco, equipped with a ravelin, constituted the only channel of communication to the village – the so-called Porta Francia, gateway to France, and was also the main road to Colle della Maddalena.
In the 19th century decline began for the Forte Albertino; first it was used as barracks, then as storage for artillery, and after WW2 it became subject to ruin and plundering. Today, it has been rightly restored and hosts the permanent exhibitions “Montagna in Movimento” and “Messaggeri Alati”.Any suggestions?
From Gianduiotti to Alpini to Cremini, Italy’s Piedmont region has suffered no historical shortage of delectable chocolate creations. Cuneesi al rum, composed of a rum-spiked, dark chocolate cream filling sandwiched between two layers of chocolate meringue and coated in a chocolate ganache, originate – as the name suggests – in the city of Cuneo.
The candy’s official history establishes Andrea Arione, owner of Cuneo’s elegant Arione café and pastry shop, as the original inventor of the treat in 1923. Indeed, the Arione family owns a patent for the name and “true” recipe for the Cuneesi al rum.
However, a competing origin story claims that a pastry chef named Pietro Galletti from the nearby town of Dronero was the actual, though accidental, inventor of a treat pairing chocolate and rum in candy form.
According to this legend, in the year 1900, Galletti - through some combination of experimentation with chocolate cream and rum pairings and an attempt to save a botched batch of meringues by soaking them in rum and coating them in chocolate – produced the original inspiration for Arione’s cuneesi. Still others assert that the treats origins go even further back, and that small meringues coated in chocolate were actually a popular bonbon in the royal court of Louis XIV of France.
Regardless of their true origins, this candy’s appeal has endured throughout the 20th century. The cuneesi al rum became internationally renowned following a visit by Ernest Hemingway to the Arione pastry shop in the year 1954. To the delight of locals, Hemingway sampled the treat, which was much to his liking, and purchased two kilos of the Cuneesi as a gift for his wife Mary.
The territory surrounding the northwestern Italian city of Cuneo boasts a rich cultural patrimony, but among its many treasures, the Sanctuary of San Costanzo al Monte stands out as being one of the oldest and most important.
A large portion of the sanctuary as we see it today was constructed in the late 11th century on the purported site of Saint Constance’s martyrdom among the peaks of Mount Saint Bernard in the 4th century A.D.
Today, the Sanctuary of San Costanzo stands as a splendid and well-preserved example of medieval Romanesque-Lombard architecture. Newly opened in 2012 after a lengthy restoration process, visitors may observe various traces of San Costanzo’s nearly 1000-year history.
Of particular note is the structure’s crypt, which is of unusually large dimensions that recall important religious sites such as the Church of Saint Francis in Assisi and Turin’s cathedral. The sanctuary also preserves an 11th century fresco cycle – rediscovered in 1951 and restored at the turn of the 21st century – that has few parallels in the region.Any suggestions?
The Lake of Saint Anna, situated at a height of 2150 metres above sea level in a far northwestern corner of Italy’s Maritime Alps, belongs to the municipality of Vinadio in the Province of Cuneo. The lake was formed through glacial erosion and meltage, like other natural bodies of water that dot this mountainous terrain, and boasts a unique beauty.
The lake’s stunning panoramic surroundings have rendered it a popular destination for hikers.
A series of well-marked trekking paths allow nature lovers to fully experience the area’s natural beauty; one particularly appealing 10-kilometre loop begins and ends at the Sanctuary of Saint Anna (a site well worth a visit of its own), which is easily accessible by car.
This trail, which leads hikers past several gorgeous glacial lakes in both Italian and French territories over a period of about 3 hours, consistently maintains an elevation of at least 2010 metres, providing hikers with a nearly constant panoramic view. Options for hikers of all levels abound!Any suggestions?
When most Italians think of autumn, they think of chestnuts. And when those in-the-know think of chestnuts, they think of chestnuts from Cuneo. Historically, the chestnut can be traced back as early as the 12th century where their cultivation represented a good part of farmable land. Today, chestnut production requires trees that are situated in a sunny area protected from wind.
Enjoying both DOP and IGP status, Cuneese chestnuts first begin to appear at the start of September and their harvest continues until November.
The Cuneese chestnuts boast 22 different varieties including: Pugnante, Castagna della Madonna, Garrone rosso and Garrone nero, and Marrone di Chiusa Pesio just to name a few.
Reigning supreme in a wide array of culinary specialties from Cuneo, they can be enjoyed far beyond the basic boiled or roasted. Cuneese chestnuts can be found in both traditional local recipes, both sweet and savoury, as well as more elaborate dishes such as roast pork with chestnuts.
Two classic Cuneese holiday specialities are the mundaj, a rolled dessert featuring chocolate and chestnuts and the beloved marron glacé. In fact, for many Italians, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the sweet, luxurious treat of a few marron glacés.
As is the tradition with all royalty, the chestnuts of Cuneo are also celebrated with an annual festival.
La Fiera Nazionale del Marrone (National Chestnut Festival) is held every year in Cuneo and has long been considered one of Italy’s most important gastronomic traditions. It is a celebration not only of the chestnut itself, but a tribute to the excellence and antique traditions of the region of Cuneo.
The event features hundreds of producers and exhibitors all carefully selected by a pool of experts from the town of Cuneo, Slow Food, Coldiretti, and other groups dedicated to maintaining the quality and reputation of Made in Italy. For three days visitors can visit the historic city centre of Cuneo and revel in the tastes, smells, and colours all while enjoying the best that this region has to offer. A singular event to pay tribute to a truly extraordinary gift of nature. Both the festival and the chestnut itself offer a must-do for anyone looking to spend a weekend in true Cuneese style!Any suggestions?
Potatoes arrived in Europe with the discovery of the Americas but it was only in the 19th century that they became popular in Northern Italy. As a high yielding crop, potatoes soon became an important part of the traditional diet of farmers, also because they could be stored and lasted for a very long time.
Although potato growing is widespread in many environments, at certain altitudes it is subject to fewer parasitic diseases. Coupled with a less intensive cultivation, this results in a strong and tasty variety that is still a preferred option for producers and consumers alike.
For this reason groups of growers in different mountain areas have created consortiums to develop and protect their products. The "Gruppo Produttori Patata Entracque" has been founded in Entraque and only potatoes grown in the area are granted the quality seal issued by the consortium.
Different varieties produced in the area include the Monalisa, the Primura and the Kennebec, but the Piatlìna is considered as the real Entracque Potato. This type of white potatoes, also called "bodi", is rather rare because of its poor yield and its lower storage capacity compared with other varieties, so only few enthusiastic producers keep on growing it.
Nonetheless, it is favoured by local cooks when making delicious gnocchi or "cuiette". Entracque gnocchi have a long and narrow shape, achieved by rolling the mix of potato and flour with two hands. They are then boiled in hot water and best served with butter or a tomato and sausage sauce.
These delicious gnocchi and other local specialities can be tasted on the 8th of December for the traditional Madonna das Cuiette festival, which celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Similarly, every year at the end of August the town holds the festival of the Entracque potato, with food, music and other events.
So whether it's in late summer or right before Christmas, do not miss the opportunity to visit the town and enjoy a special culinary treat!Any suggestions?
“A Caraj l'an piantà j aj j an nen bagnaj, j aj sun seccaj” or loosely translated, “in Caraglio they planted garlic, but they didn’t water it so it dried up”. What seems to be a simple line from a clever rhyme is actually testimony to the preciousness of an almost lost Italian excellence, the garlic of Caraglio.
The territory of the small town of Caraglio, in the foothills of the Grana Valley, has always been excellent for the cultivation of garlic. Because of its proximity to the Alps, Caraglio’s winters are cold and snowy, while the springs and summers are cool and breezy, and this microclimate gives garlic (both raw and cooked) a delicate flavor and easy digestibility.
This variety is hearty and rustic, the bulb has small size (20-60 mm) and tapered cloves with wine-red streaks. After harvesting, the bulbs are dried on racks and are then packed strictly by hand.
Production that was once confined to kitchen gardens with the excess being sold in farmer’s markets and later abandoned and left to the mercy of nature, has thankfully been revived and is now protected under the strict rules of a consortium which requires its producers to adhere to inflexible farming methods. These prohibit the use of pesticides and other non-organic means of production that are not in harmony with nature.
Typically harvested around June 24th on the Feast of St. John (San Giovanni), after a 40-day drying period the garlic is ready to be consumed.
The garlic of Caraglio features a delicate aroma and is also gentle on the palate. Its lingering taste makes it an ideal ingredient for bruschetta, bagna cauda (a sauce made of garlic and anchovies) and the famous Piedmont bagno verde, a delicious green sauce typical of Piedmont cuisine typically served with fresh cheese such as tomini and the famous bollito misto (mixed cuts of boiled meat).
Thanks to the hard work, pride, and dedication of its producers and the consortium, the garlic of Caraglio continues to flourish and is celebrated every year at the annual festival held in mid-November.