The House in the Country
Places to see
Places to see up the Valle Curone - for more photos look at the photo gallery
DRIVE SLOWLY AND ENJOY THE VIEWS
The Valle Curone is at the border of three regions, Piedmont, Lombardy and Emila Romagna. From this valley the Alpi Marittime merge with the Apennine (the backbone of Italy)
With mountains exceeding 1000 Mtrs, Giarolo 1473mtr is the one, which oversees the valley as you drive up from Tortona. This imposing mountain offers skiing in winter and spectacular views over the valleys.
When you drive up do not forget to look behind, as you will see, on a clear day, the Alps in their most majestic splendour, capped with snow all year round they are so close you feel you can touch them, they are but a couple of hours drive away.
As you drive up the valley you will see rows upon rows of vines, peaches, apricots, apples and pear trees the freshly picked fruit in the area tastes like nothing on earth, if you like honey some of the best and clearest can be found in the valley.
For the ramblers there are various walks, which can take you all the way across the mountains from 110 mtr up to the Giarolo and down to the sea near Portofino, unless you are an experienced walker we suggest you stick to the lesser ambitious walks. The woods are marked with paths from 1,2 up to 4 hours walks. Always be careful of ensuring the local flora and fauna is not damaged.
Amongst the rarest orchids can be found as well as lilies and other flowers, animals like badgers, foxes, hares, wild bore and a multitude of birds have their home in the valley; song birds and birds of pray share the sky and make it a birdwatcher?s paradise. The "Poiana (lat: Buteo buteo)" a bird of pray which skilfully masters the hot column of air, is capable of dropping from high altitudes and fly low to the ground skimming it like a jet fighter, this majestic bird is a sight to behold. Woodpeckers can be heard "drilling" into trees, and a pleasure to watch, Jades and other birds form this vast natural reserve in this valley can also be seen with a little patience. The early morning and later afternoon the air is filled with a cacophony of songs as they all want to be heard, yet at lunchtime, they all go for a siesta (rest).
Tortona is a very old Roman town (Derthona), its museum has a collection of local artefacts, yet, every where you dig, you risk to come across antiquities, in the local shopping centre (OASI) you can see an old mosaic from Roman times. Tortona was a gateway to Milan and was a centre of prime trading importance. A colourful history of feudal wars have left their mark.
Il Teatro Civico a mini replica of La Scala in MIlan, offers concerts, operas and plays.
Its castle and churches date back centuries, the Via Emilia with the classical Italian Portico is a place where you can walk "the passeggiata" stop for a coffee or taste some delicious ice cream.
For the students and the lovers of architecture:
Palazzo Guidobono (15th century) with a Gothic facade. It has traces of Renaissance frescoes.
The cathedral (mid-16th century). The facade is a neo-classical addition of the 19th century. The interior has works by Camillo Procaccini, Aurelio Luini and others.
The Bishops' Palace (1584), with a noteworthy Renaissance portal. It has a triptych of Madonna with Child and Saints by Macrino d'Alba (1499). Tortona is also best known for religious pilgrimage, Don Orione who was beatified a few years ago is centre stage to the pilgrimage. The monastrery and school has helped countless orphans over the years.
On the way out of Tortona, up towards the valle Curone we find Viguzzolo. The highlight of this little town apart of the old historical centre is the Pieve Romanica, a Church restored and of inestimable value (it can only be visited by appointment). If you are lucky sometimes on a Saturday you can see a wedding taking place. This church dates back to the XI century, although documents state that as far back as 893 there was a place of worship within the same area.
The "old" town with its narrow streets offer views of its medieval history. Various factions invaded the area and have left their mark, from the Sforza of Milan to the Visconti to the Spanish to the Sforza and the Fogliani of Piacenza to the Savoia. A turbulent history but a colourful one at that.
Volpedo has been deemed as one of the most beautiful hamlets in Italy, Tracing its history to the Roman times it is more famous for Pellizza a painter who was born and died in Volpedo: July 28, 1868 - June 14, 1907. He is considered a neo-impressionist artist,
His most famous work is Il Quarto Stato ("The Fourth Estate"), the museum and his house are open to the public.
The Palazzo di Malaspina (palace of Malspina), Roman ruins can be found around this quaint little town. A local Romanic style church can also be found, this again is a jewel dating back to 865. Walking around Volpedo you can see the ancient housing which are built with the local river rocks, dating back hundred of years.
At the local market on a Sunday morning you can purchase local produce. The Volpedo peaches they set the standards for quality and taste.
The Monleale you travel through is the new town, the "old" Monleale sits on top of a hill and it overlooks Volpedo. The two town have had a history of feudal wars dating back centuries.
Monleale is now famous for its hockey team and like Volpedo the Summer fruit fetes.
Very ancient hamlets with a very folklorist history. In Barca you can still find a baker (now more modern) which dates back centuries and in Montemarzino you can find remnants of a Medival castle and preserved trees (if only they could talk, what tails they would tell)
The ancient hamlet of Montemarzino is now on the map for something far more modern, a full 18 holes international golf course, it partially coast the river Curone to climb up the local hill. A modern club house and restaurant complete this infrastructure of international standing.
As you drive up the SP100, the imposing mountain in front of you offer the protection to the valley and create a microclimate, the mountain is also a backdrop to these places, a tree lined road set the entrance to Brignano Frascata with the Mountains in front of you and the Castle of Bruzzo to your right. The original castle was built in the XIV century by the De Ferraris, and expanded by the Bruzzo family between 1924 and 1939. The during the last war, the castle, was the HQ for the local German Command, and in the last days of the war did not distinguish them selves for good conduct. Several partisans were executed without trial, around the villages (Pozzol Groppo) a plaque commemorate one of these events
The town dates back to early Roman days, but prehistoric artefacts have been found dating back 5000 years, the local museum has some on display. A local farming community can trace its origin in the depth of time. The town's very narrow alleyways ensure compactness and gives a sense of how the community lived.
Brignano Frascata boast another castle in the hamlet of Frascata. The castle of Cantacapra dates back to the early centuries of the first millnium. What is left are few remnants of it. Apparently it was destroyed by a landslide after heavvy rain. Old wives tales, tell of a different story; the castle was destroyed by an act of God for punishing the people for not going to church. The little hamlet of Frascata baost a convet c.1400, now used as a house and a lot of the very hold houses are built with original turrets.
The majority of the buildings are made of rocks and the walls 1mt think are normal.
San Sebastiano Curone is a small town, dating back to early settlements, a market place dates back to the medieval times and is the staging post for the Strada del Sale. The narrow streets designed with Genovese influence are so designed to prevent men of horseback to ride through them A castle/prince house has been restored and some very early churches can be found in this quaint little town. This town comes into its own in he autumn for the truffle festival when thousands of people converge in the area to taste and purchase this delicacy. A building worth seeing is the council office with its faade adorned with elaborate paintings. But like every where in Italy, look up the buildings most of the beauty of the architecture is high up.
From San Sebastiano you drive to Caldirola, along your route you will see old villages and quaint little hamlets, take the time to stop and look around, do not hurry along enjoy the view and the scenery and in next to no time you will find your self at over 1000 Mt above sea level. DRIVE CAREFULLY!
And for something special for the tree lovers; there is project managed by the local mountain and valley community (Comunita Montana); some trees in the valley have been given "monument" status, this can be found on their WEB site: Tree Watching in the valleys Curone, Grue and Ossona, secular trees can be seen and admired along this valley you can see some signs along the route up the valley (brown signs).
tel . 0039 334 3020384
Brignano Frascata - Alessadnria - Italy