Following the flow
From Turin to Saluzzo, visiting the ancient abbeys and enchanting castles of Piedmont
From Turin, following the Southbound ring road (tangenziale sud), we exit at "La Loggia" and, after a few kilometers on the SS20, reach the Sanctuary of Vallinotto, 18th century masterpiece created by the architect Bernardo Antonio Vittone.
The old salt road
Tracing the flow of the river Po, travelers choosing to take the quiet secondary roads soon find themselves immersed in the atmosphere of the ancient "Via del Sale" which, in the middle ages, animated the riverbanks.
In Villafranca Piemonte pay a visit to the Missione Chapel, first recorded mention of which dates back to the 11th century. The frescoes present on the façade were painted in the early 16th century by Bernardino Luini.
Cavour: the town and castle
Not far from Villafranca, you soon come across the town of Cavour and, soaring above the flat flood plains, the castle of the same name.
The fortress lies within the boundaries of the "Parco della Fascia Fluviale del Po", where an impressive number of megalithic carvings, polychrome Neolithic paintings and medieval ruins have been found
Close by there is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in the region: the Abbey of Santa Maria. Founded in 1037, the abbey houses the oldest altar in Piedmont.
Malingri Castle and the Abbey of Staffarda
At Bagnolo Piemonte we visit the 12th century Malingri Castle. Recently restored by the present owner, the castle, complete with triple perimeter wall, is one of very few surviving medieval fortresses to have conserved all the characteristics of a military outpost.
On your way to the Abbey of Santa Maria Staffarda, stop off at Barge to sample the town's crunchy "bataje" biscuits!
Close to Bagnolo Piemonte, the Abbey of Santa Maria Staffarda was founded in 1135 by the Cistercian Monks. An incredibly large complex, the Abbey is comprised of monks cells, an elegant cloister with twin columns, capitulary hall, refectory, and some nine dairy rooms.
Saluzzo and Manta Castle
Approximately 10kms from the Abbey lies the enchanting little town of Saluzzo, the 15th century urban structure of which has been perfectly conserved.
The town's narrow cobbled streets are overlooked by the imposing Castiglia, stronghold reached via the Salita al Castello: a road lined with sumptuous patrician palazzi. The Castiglia, once a prison, has recently been transformed into an amazing modern art gallery!
Just 3kms from Saluzzo, in the direction of Cuneo, we find the 12th century Manta Castle.
The medieval fortress was enlarged by the marquis of Saluzzo at the start of the 15th century and it was in this period that the magnificent fresco in the Sala Baronale was realized.
The fresco, the author of which has yet to be identified, depicts Prodi and Eroine, characters taken from Le Chevalier Errant, the novel written by the Marquis Tommaso III
The anonymous painter's decidedly melancholic vision of the decline of the chivalric period contrasts starkly with the lustful goings-on illustrated in the Fountain of Youth, present in the same hall.