Tourism and landscape • Piedmont
Lavender colors Alessandria and Monferrato: 10 villages to discover
June is a magical time to visit Alessandria and Monferrato thanks to the flowering of lavender: a very fragrant show that offers a glance of a thousand shades of unique and spectacular purple. This year then, the well-known and highly appreciated event of wine tourism, Cantine Aperte, offers a second weekend to enthusiasts, on 19 and 20 June, and these lands are also among the most suitable in Italy for the cultivation of vines. There are numerous wineries in Monferrto and in the province of Alessandria that adhere to the June appointment. Two excellent reasons therefore to choose these splendid hills for a trip out of town or a holiday weekend in Italy, to discover an area that can be easily reached in an hour's drive from Turin, Milan and Genoa.
And if this weekend is not possible for you to take advantage of the particular circumstance, there is still time until the end of July to enjoy the lavender blooming.
Foto: di ALEXALA - Tourist Board Alessandria & Monferrato
So let's go to the discovery of the villages in the area, custodians of small architectural beauties and able to take those who visit them back in time. Here lavender has for some time taken on an increasingly important role in the agricultural economy, with companies that process the flowers to create oils, perfumes and beauty products. Many can be visited, and there are several structures in the area that have built experiences around lavender and its colors: from educational farms that tell about its uses to wooden "starsboxes" that allow you to relax in the middle of the fields while admiring the view.
Here are the most beautiful themed tourist proposals, ten different villages to discover for an immersion in the lavender fields of Alessandria and Monferrato.
Alexandria, the pulsating capital of these areas, is the right place to have an educational experience with lavender. Wonderful city to go around by bike (the city has also dedicated a museum to bicycles: https://www.acdbmuseo.it), offers a mix of ancient architecture (one above all the Citadel, one of the greatest European monuments in the of the permanent fortification, as well as one of the best preserved in Europe) and modern (the spectacular Meier bridge, for example, the work of the famous architect of the same name, from whose cycle and pedestrian lane you can enjoy a beautiful sunset over the river) and can easily be the nerve center from which to leave to discover the lavender in the area.
In Alessandria, on the subject of lavender, there is the Cascina Ospedale farm (https://www.cascinadellanonna.com, via Vecchia dei Bagliani 100), which can also be reached with a pleasant walk from the city. Here both officinal and hybrid lavender are grown, all organic. The fields are spectacular, but above all the company allows you to have direct experiences, even with children, thanks to a beautiful educational farm, which offers various activities: there is a small mill to make flour, there are seeds to plant and discover (and then take home) and of course there are walks in the lavender. There is also a small store, from Monday to Saturday (8.30-12.30 no Tuesday).
We are in the South Western part of the province, in the Upper Monferrato Acquese, on the ridge that divides the Val Bormida from the Valle dell'Erro, already very close to the Ligurian border, whose contaminations are felt, in the architecture of the villages, in the flavors and also in the spoken accent.
The small village of Castelletto d'Erro, just over 150 inhabitants perched on a hill, is an ideal starting point to admire the summer blooms of lavender. Here there are in fact some panoramic points perfect for a spectacular photo. For example, the small church of Sant'Anna, beloved by the local faithful because here, on the day of the patronal feast (the third Sunday of July), the statue of Sant'Anna is carried in procession. Or, another vantage point from which to admire the purple fields is the square tower of the thirteenth century that dominates the town, surrounded by some ruins of the ancient castle walls and by circular stone turrets also created for military purposes. This tower is still today an excellent observation point not only for lavender, but also to admire both the Ligurian Apennines and the Langhe, with the nearby Asti municipality of Roccaverano and its precious goat cheese (the Roccaverano robiola), the Alessandria plain and in the distance the Monviso and some Lombard peaks.
In Castelletto there are the seven hectares of lavender of Anna Calviello's company, which offer an enchanting glance, easily reachable from the town, after about a kilometer, following the provincial road towards Montechiaro Alto.
Another perfect spot to admire the lavender blooms is Spigno Monferrato, in the southernmost area of the province of Alessandria, on the border with Liguria. Its historic center is full of noble palaces, carved sandstone portals, streets and alleys that show the richness of this small village. The whole territory, then, is sprinkled with ancient and suggestive churches and small country churches such as the medieval chapel of the Madonna della Neve near Turpino or the Madonna del Casato church, located along the road towards Merana, inside which important late Gothic frescoes of the Master of Roccaverano (around 1480), one of the most complete examples of Gothic-Provençal painting from Alessandria.
Spigno is the perfect place to learn more about lavender: in fact, here is the Agronatura cooperative (http://agronatura.it), where officinal herbs are transformed and the transformation of all the lavender in the province conferred by the producer members is coordinated. Agronatura was in fact founded in 1986 to systematize the production of alternative crops for the inhabitants, creating income in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way and cultivating medicinal plants following the methods of Organic and Biodynamic Agriculture. More precisely, thanks to the cooperative's machinery, lavender harvesting, various services and its distillation can be provided to create essential oils (mostly exported to France) and perfumed waters for cosmetics and aromatherapy. The cooperative organizes visits by appointment and has a shop for the purchase of essential oils and perfumed waters.
Just over three hundred inhabitants, Cuccaro Monferrato is linked to the nearby Lu in a double way: to connect them a beautiful panoramic road from which to admire all the beauty of the hilly landscape and the nearby villages. And, of course, some lavender fields. The best spot for a themed photo is the Big Bench No. 99, the large bench on which to sit and admire the surroundings from above (perhaps at sunset), which is not surprisingly lavender.
Lu also hosts a panoramic Big Bench, with bright colors, where lilac is combined with yellow. This small village, with its alleys, ancient churches and historic buildings that lead up to the upper part of the town (where the Gerbido della Torre Civica is located, surrounded by a beautiful park), is a real beauty to visit.
Quargnento is an absolutely unmissable stop for those who want to know (and buy) lavender: in fact, here is the field as far as the eye can see of the company "La lavanda di Lu" by Sergio Amadori (www.lalavandadilu.it). It can be reached by taking the road that branches off to the left from the entrance to the internal Lu-Cuccaro road, towards Quargnento, always keeping to the left and crossing fields of wheat and hazelnut groves, up to the unmistakable expanse of violet also manned by a products derived from lavender, such as essential oils and aromatic laundry bags. In fact, lavender is transformed here into essential oil (to obtain a bottle of ten milliliters of essential oil, about two kilos of lavender are needed, equal to five square meters of cultivation) with extraction in a current of steam, and partly dried, collected in bunches and then manually shelled and enclosed in bags handcrafted with refined fabrics to better enhance the fragrance. To see, in the city, the minor Basilica of San Dalmazio, the only basilica in the diocese of Alessandria, which houses beautiful frescoes by the painter Vincenzo Boniforti.
If you want to continue along the path of the colored Big Benches, around the lavender fields of Lu and Cuccaro, you cannot miss the n. 92, in fuchsia pink color, and of sure effect for a photo on Instagram. San Salvatore, a lively town full of churches and noble palaces, offers the opportunity to walk up to a beautiful panoramic point from which to admire the surrounding hills and flower fields: it is the Sanctuary Madonna del Pozzo path, a path of about ten kilometers that leads from the city center to the Grana stream, passing by the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Pozzo, dating back to the 18th century and built in memory of a miraculous apparition of the Virgin.
Halfway between Valenza and Casale Monferrato there is the village of Giarole, which houses one of the most beautiful castles in the province, the Sannazzaro Castle (www.castellosannazzaro.it) built in 1200 by the Sannazzaro Natta counts and today a bed and breakfast and residence historic visitable, thanks to the welcome of Giose and Letizia Sannazzaro. A few hundred meters away, the Pavese Andrea farm has included among its crops, right in the area bordering the town of Pomaro, some fields of organic lavender, which wind through the Grana stream, the hills and the valley. A very pleasant walk in the fragrant blue, starting from the road that runs alongside the old cemetery of the village and which also gives the opportunity to stumble upon the delightful parish church of San Pietro, right next to the field of about two hectares.
We move to the easternmost part of the province of Alessandria, on the sweet Tortona hills famous for Timorasso wine, fruit cultivation, the roads of the champions, and for the beautiful out-of-time villages. One of these is Viguzzolo, a village that smells of lavender thanks to the fields of the estate of Giancarlo Nossa, a passionate gardener, who has been growing strawberries here since 2007 and, indeed, the spectacular purple flowers. Once harvested, the lavender is brought to the Agronatura di Spigno cooperative for the transformation process. Not to be missed in Virguzzolo is certainly the parish church of Santa Maria, built around the year one thousand on the remains of an ancient church and the keeper, inside, of a moving wooden crucifix made of fig wood, in human size and mounted on a a three meter high cross.
The tiny Merana, with its parish church surrounded by the green of the meadows, is one of those places that allows you to go back in time, allowing yourself a few hours in slow mode. This is also demonstrated by the philosophy of Agriturismo Verdita (https://www.verdita.com/it/starsbox-it), which has built an entire tourist proposal around lavender. The windows of its four rooms (which have the names of plants and flowers, obviously including lavender), in fact, open onto the beautiful surrounding countryside, made up of flowery meadows, hills, woods, vineyards and hazelnut groves. But above all, the farmhouse offers the wonderful experience of sleeping or simply relaxing in one of the "starsbox", romantic wooden huts in the middle of lavender fields, which allow you to fully enjoy immersion in nature, without filters or mediations.