Leave Roddino in the direction of Serralunga. Once at Madonna della Neve Chapel, take the grassy trail to the right that runs along the side of the hill, then follow along the Bricco del Gallo road (initially paved to the left, then immediately to the right). After the agriturismo, head under the road to the left, initially on a dirt trail and then to the right on a grassy trail through the vineyards and then a hazelnut grove. The road heads down gradually (D1-2) and into the woods before becoming a dirt road again near the base of the valley.
Once back to the main highway, cross the highway and head back up to the village of Sinio, which features a castle and is situated almost vertically above the valley, so take the stairs to cut out the steep roadways of the village and take the church road to reach the upper square of the town hall and the castle (which is now a hotel). Turn left onto Vicolo del Castello, then turn right at the RV parking area to begin the climb to Montelupo.
After about 50 metres, take the first dirt trail to the right (S2) and follow it through the hazelnut groves to a village house. Turn left here and head up (S2) for a couple of kilometres and continue along a brief stretch of paved road in the hamlet of Protto. The paved section ends after Gabusi (rapid succession of right, left, right), then continue on the grassy trail to the left. This trail descends gradually near the village of Montelupo and past a gorge (which you will pass on the right as you turn left). Once past the bridge, you will arrive at a group of houses. After the last farmhouse, the road gets steep and becomes a narrow road (D3) through the woods and vineyards, remaining very steep and rocky. Continue down through the fields and hazelnut groves, always keeping to the left until the Bricchi farmhouse.
The descent remains very steep (D3 extreme); continue keeping to the left. After two gravelly switchbacks, the road will again be paved past Sinio in the direction of Valle Talloria. Cross the highway to Valle Talloria and take the dirt road that heads down to the Talloria ford before heading back up steeply (S3, beyond the ford take the fork to the right) into the woods and then vineyards to the hamlet of Cerrati. From here, head down the paved road back to the main highway, which opens onto one of the most beautiful of the Barolo landscapes. Nearly all of the great Serralunga crus are found on this side, which overlooks the hamlets of Ginestra, Castelletto and Perno di Monforte. Right below you, you will see the famous Lazzarito. To the right of this is Meriame, with Garombo, Marenca and Parafada to the left.
Turn left and head to Serralunga, the most medieval of the Langhe villages with its castle dominating over a single circle of homes. Go through the archway to Piazza Umberto I with the main tower of the Falletti Fortress looming above. Don’t miss the opportunity for a visit to the castle (a national monument and museum that has maintained its defensive features intact) and of the main street. Leave the town via Piazza Cappellano, from where you can also admire the vineyards of Vigna Rionda (perhaps the town’s most celebrated cru), and head along the paved road to the crossroads for Collaretto (another famous Barolo vineyard) to the right and then, once past the village, follow the dirt road in front of you, which heads down (D2) through truffle plants to the waterway below. Cross the waterway and continue to a threepronged fork in the road. Take the middle fork, a rocky trail that heads up steeply (S3 extreme) through the woods and out to the Ginestra vineyards.
Continue on the paved road through the hamlet, past a few sharp switchbacks and a cemetery, and then down, at last, to Monforte. Monforte is another charming town and features the Saracca, the oldest part of town that rises steeply up to Palazzo degli Scarampi and the Horzowsky Auditorium (where the best jazz festival of the entire Piedmont region has been held every July for over thirty years), but which you will do in the downhill direction. The roads in this village are worth exploring in detail, and you will find a great many locales and lodging to serve your needs. The bell tower that rises between the Oratory and the Confraternity is the most significant sign of the medieval castle that once occupied the entire level area here. In 1080, the Cathars (although they were actually Manichaean) barricaded themselves to resist the militia of the Pope in what remained of the first case of heretic persecution. The poor inhabitants of the town were dragged in chains to Milan, where all 300 were burned at the stake. (Corso Monforte in Milan was named in memory of this event.) The sad fate of the Cathars brings us back to the historic reality of these hills that have seen an endless series of invasions from realms near and far, incursions, and epidemics brought by mercenaries. The sheer number of chapels, churches, monasteries and nunneries (many of which have now disappeared) is explained by the vulnerability of these communities, which finally found a bit of peace and order with the rise of the House of Savoy in the Piedmont region in the late 17th century, following the Thirty Years’ War.
Serralunga d'Alba - Monforte d'Alba
When you get to Serralunga from Cerrati, turn left towards the village, then, just before the road narrows, head down the paved road to the right at the crossroads for Garombo. At the end of the hamlet, the paved section of road ends and the dirt road descends quickly (D2) down into the valley through a few curves and the vineyards of Margheria and Le Turne. At the base of the valley, keep to the left and, after crossing the bridge, turn right again onto a paved road and follow along the base of the valley below Perno until you can see the hilltop village of Castiglione Falletto.
Just before a curve to the right, which would take you across another bridge, leave the paved road to the left onto the headland trail of the Scarrone vineyard, stretched out below the Falletti Castle like an embroidered dress. The road rises steeply through several curves (S2-3) and vineyards to the medieval village. Since the road makes a loop around the entire village, it doesn’t matter which direction you take, but we recommend going to the right in order to get a better idea of the ancient geometry of the glacis and moat. The massive castle with its beautiful, cylindrical tower in the middle of the courtyard essentially defines the village itself, with the church and a few old, aristocratic homes being relegated to barely a couple of streets. In Castiglione, there is also a municipal wine cellar that often organizes wine tastings and tours. Leave the village along the paved road and keep to the left in the direction of Monforte. The road will begin to rise up to the crest of the watershed where you can see, to one side, Perno and, to the other, the vineyards of the Barolo wine country nestled between Monforte and Castiglione. It was along this road that the Giro d’Italia once held the Barbaresco - Barolo time trial, which proved to be one of the event’s most thrilling stages.
Once past the Monforte city limits, leave the paved road near the Favot, the great farmhouse of Aldo Conterno, and head down to the left (D1) through the vineyards of Rocche di Castiglione then continue through the woods and past the farmhouse along a false flat. Once past the Favot, the road makes a sharp turn to the right and into the brush of the gorge (which is not very pronounced here) to then come out at the base of Santo Stefano, an ancient Romanesque parish that looks out towards the castles in Perno and Castiglione and was a popular stopping point for pilgrims and other travelers of these hills. The climb through the vineyards along the headland trail is very steep (S3) but rewarding due to the mystical tranquility of this tiny parish.
The hill descends gradually out before you towards the quaint village of Perno and its Castle (now more of an aristocratic palace), where Giulio Einaudi would meet in the summer with his editorial team way back in the 1970s. You will want to take a break here before taking on the steep climb up the mule track (S2), which cuts through the curves of the paved road, heading to the left immediately outside the town and running along the edge of the new cemetery. You will come out above the town just before a switchback. This is one of the most panoramic spots anywhere in the Langhe, as it looks out over La Morra, Verduno and Roddi in the Barolo wine region, Castiglione directly in front of you, and the Church of Santo Stefano and the Perno Castle in the foreground looking almost surreal.
To the right, there is the endless series of the rolling Serralunga hills with its castle pressed up against the darker hills of the Alta Langa. It’s a view that is as stunning as it is unexpected. Continue along the paved road for a few hundred metres and then, past the crossroads for Castelletto (where the 16th century church and the ancient cemetery are worth a visit), head down to the hamlet of Gramolere, where, at the large purple bench, you will follow the markings on the walls of the farmhouses. Once past the houses, head from the courtyard onto the country road to the left, which runs along the hillside through woods and vineyards before meeting up with the main highway after a couple of kilometres. After a few curves along the paved road through the woods, you will see a crossroads to the left along a gravel road, which rises gradually up the Ginestra hillside to just before the public pool. Head down to Monforte from atop the Saracca (the old part of town that is hanging practically vertically to the rocky hillside).