On my journey to discover Piedmont I came across a village that stands right where the Langhe blend with Monferrato. This area of Piemonte is one of the most enchanting, here you find pristine valleys, grape-producing landscapes, vineyards in bloom, look-out towers all over the hills and of course many other rural legacy features.
The medieval village of Canelli is not just any village, certainly pretty like many others, it hides a real surprise “underground”: a network of galleries, tunnels, corridors and spacious arches that run for more than 20 kilometres underneath the entire town and the surrounding hills.
They were dug into the tuff rock in past centuries and in their deepest point they reaches up to 40 metres underground. Because of their striking and surreal huge chambers they are often appointed as the Underground Cathedrals of Canelli, a must-see masterpiece of engineering and architecture.
Since 1865 the inhabitants of Canelli have joined their forces and have worked to find a solution to the conservation of wine. The calcareous tuff rock of Canelli is a precious ally for a winemaker because it is hard and stable and it creates the perfect thermal isolation, naturally maintaining a constant temperature between 12° and 14° degree (57°F). What better place to refine wine? Here thousands of bottles are left to ferment and get aromas and flavours.
It is no coincidence that right in Canelli was born the first sparkling Italian wine!
Nowadays the Underground Cathedrals are headed by four large historic wine houses (Bosca, Contratto, Gancia and Coppo) and all of them make their treasures accessible to the public.
A place like this does not exist anywhere else in the world and this is why the underground cathedrals of Canelli are part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
Cantina Bosca winery
The visit to Cantina Bosca is among the most exciting: the winery not only offers a selection of great wines to taste but also a journey into the magic of bubbles and the charm of art.
Bosca literally revolutionized spaces with a permanent installation of lights and sounds. Environment after environment, you’ll feel like being in an underground theater sorrounded by thousands and thousands of bottles and after many unexpected discoveries – I do not want to reveal… – you will reach the immense chamber dedicated to art and music.
Take note, Bosca produces one of the best Italian sparkling wines named Riserva del Nonno. Be sure to come home with a bottle of it!
What else to see in Canelli
Besides the visits to the wineries, Canelli is also a place full of history. The town of Canelli is divided into two areas: the village, which is located downstream and is now the largest part of the city, and Villanuova, characterized by the presence of the famous Castle Gancia, together with which dominates the hilly area. These two areas are connected to each other by Sternia, a steep cobblestone road that flanks small rural houses dug directly into the rock and offers panoramic views.
Starting from the pedestrian paved road called Villanuova, Sternia allows you to cross the medieval side of Canelli and see many of the architectural features, such as the Church of San Rocco. It is a real open-air art museum and in the end you can enjoy the Belvedere Unesco.
At the end of Sternia there is Castle Gancia, built around the eleventh century with the aim of giving protection to the roads that connected Asti with Savona, on which were carried out important trade.
Unfortunately it is not a place open to the public, since it is still a private house, but its beauty is also worth a single visit from the outside.
Canelli certainly stands out for its wine excellence and for its culinary traditions. Here you will find many star restaurants offering typical Piedmontese cuisine with some touches of originality and many other dishes cooked with exceptional products by chefs of great level.
Some of charming restaurants with piemontese creative cuisine: Ristorante San Marco, Ristorante Enoteca Di Canelli, Ristorante Guido, Ristorante Violetta, Ristorante Belbo da Bardon.
I hope you will take some inspiration for your next trip!
If you share with me the passion for this part of Italy do not miss the following insights:
Montabone and the flawless beauty of Langa Astigiana
Roccaverano and the most beautiful villages of Alta Langa
Monferrato: a charming day-trip among wine and castles