Highlights and tour details
The Roa Marenca trail starts from the Breo district in the centre of Mondovì, and crosses the towns of Vicoforte, Torre Mondovì, Roatta, Serra Pamparato, Pamparato, Valcasotto, Colla di Casotto, Garessio and Trappa to arrive in Ormea.
Before getting onto the saddle, dedicate a little time to discover the beautiful town of Mondovì, the Breo district and the high district of Piazza, at 612 m, which is easy to reach by the scenic funicular designed by Giugiaro. From here, the view opens onto the medieval village to reach the lookout point with its clock tower from where the gaze wanders over the surrounding plains and hills of Langhe.
We then set off on the magnificent Via delle Cappelle (Chapel Way), there are seven in all, in the most scenic points, always at a high-altitude, to reach the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, which features the world's largest elliptical cupola. Today, it can be visited internally (www.magnificat-italia.com), to enjoy a breathtaking view over the 6000 m2 of frescoes, including some of the world's largest. The ancient Roa Marenca trail starts from the nearby roundabout, beside the healthy springs "Le Acque", and takes us to the village of Moline, a true ancient "tollgate" of this road, which branched off in two directions: heading for the Casotto Valley or the Corsaglia Valley.
From Moline, the name betrays the presence of these ancient tools, one is still visible on the Corsaglia torrent, we reach Torre Mondovì and climb immediately towards Roata, on an ancient Roman road, Via Savinia. The village of Torre Piazza, stop-off point at a high altitude (550 m), will allow you to discover another lookout point, a rare botanical garden and a jewel of a square. The trail continues through chestnut woods on the ancient Via Savinia, which will take us to below Monte Savino (1088 m) on the border between the Casotto and the Corsaglia torrents. Once out of Roata, we meet the curious Madonna del Pilone, which is still a stop-off point, with the ancient church-shrine dating to 1630, to protect from the plague. It was subsequently englobed in the church, on the rear. Once out of the woods, in the Cattini area, you will have a magnificent view of the mountains which separate you from the sea, and the most adventurous can even explore the Bear Cave (with a torch) in the bottom of a sinkhole, namely the subsidence of Karst terrain. We are close to Serra di Pamaparato, on the same road used by the Savoia family who travelled it in their carriage, heading towards their hunting lodge of Valcosotto, built over an old Carthusian Abbey. We continue towards the village of Pamparato, a culinary stop-off point where we can taste buckwheat polenta, mountain potatoes and the local specialty, cornflour cookies. The Roman Bridge, the 23 fountains of the village and the century-old linden tree are all worth a visit.
We continue, heading towards "Colla di Casotto", the lowest pass used in ancient times to exchange goods between Liguria and Piedmont, impossible not to stop off in the village of Valcasotto, cheese-ripening centre, and taste the local cornflour cookies, which are still made by hand. This village developed from the satellite residences of the Carthusian estate and it was one of the first places where the Partisan Resistance of Northern Italy was born. A must-see is Colla Casotto (1380 m), now the Garessio 2000 ski resort, to enjoy the first view of the Ligurian Sea. We now descend to the ancient scenic village of Garessio.
Main road 28 quickly connects to the village of Ormea (city of the elm trees), gateway of Rota Marenca to the sea. We cycle along the River Tanaro and the railway (today for historic use) with its tollgates and its romantic stations. The Val d'Inferno and the scenic Saracen Tower of Barchi are stop-off points teeming with ancient charm. In Ormea, there is nothing left for us to do but to lose ourselves in the medieval centre of its "trevi" (equivalent to the carrugi (alleys) of Liguria) on the "Tour del Cuore" , and climb to the remains of the Castle that overlooks the city and the Tanaro Valley.
Points of interest
La Roa Marenca and the streets of white gold.
Once roads used for the transporting of "salt" (necessary to preserve food),in a time so precious that it used to sometimes be exchanged at the same value of gold! The use of the refrigerator, at the beginning of the twentieth century, has made the use of these streets obsolete, but now they are to be rediscovered filled with culture, nature and flavors! 60 km of secondary asphalted roads between woods and mountains from which you can venture onto paths on white roads through some loops.
POINTS OF INTEREST:
Valle Tanaro is the traditional bridge connecting Piedmont and the Ligurian Riviera to the nearby provinces of Imperia and Savona. The landscape is therefore very varied and full of contrasts. Large spaces extend between Ceva and Garessio with its gentle hilly slopes covered with woods, while the landscape becomes rough and lively towards Ormea, where the road that runs alongside the river Tanaro touches exceptional rocky quartzite structures that emerge from the thick vegetation. The highest part of the valley offers tourists unforgettable naturalistic and mountainous landscapes, from Briga Alta to the villages of Viozene and Upega, from the sources of the Tanaro to Mount Mongioie.
The valley has an important history, marked by the passage of populations and trade since the pre-Roman era, as evidenced by the findings found in the small but picturesque Val Pennavaira.
There are remains of castles in Nucetto, Perlo, Priola and Ormea, alternating with those of the Saracen towers, a tangible sign of the invasion of bands of Saracens who went as far as the Piedmontese valleys between the 8th and 11th centuries. Bagnasco preserves a Roman bridge, while at Garessio it is well worth visiting the ancient medieval village, the geo speleological museum, the Sanctuary of Valsorda and the waters of the S. Bernardo sources which are marketed all over the world. In winter, winter sports enthusiasts can experience the thrill of skiing and of seeing the sea from the slopes of Garessio2000.
Ormea is an important summer resort, surrounded by thick forests. The old town, with a strong ligurian influence, is marked by narrow streets known here as "Trevi" (alleyways). The parish church of S. Martino boasts Gothic frescoes of the fourteenth century, a crucifixion of Moncalvo and a precious ethnogical museum. The ormeasco dialect, which is only spoken in Ormea, is a curious mixture of Piedmontese, Ligurian, French and Arabic phonemes, a linguistic legacy due to the passage of the Saracens. Even from a gastronomic point of view, Ormea presents itself as a sort of enclave: fözze, fried tultei, sc-ciancui, are just some of the local specialties that are accompanied by light wines such as sciac-trà.
The beans of Bagnasco, the potatoes of Ormea, the white turnips of Caprauna and the dry white chestnuts, called "garessine" are some of the agricultural products of the valley, while in the forest there are fragrant mushrooms as well as delicious blueberries and wild strawberries . Typical local cheeses come from the mountain pastures: from the small Sore or Tome, to the large forms of Raschera d'alpeggio, while the most typical dish remains the Saracen polenta, to be served with a traditional milk, leek and mushroom sauce.