Po, Bronda and Infernotto Valleys
Not far from the bank of Po river near Revello, the Cistercian Staffarda Abbey was founded in the 12th century by the Marquis of Saluzzo. This sizeable centre includes several buildings. Among several Gothic and Romanesque-Gothic buildings, the church is worth a visit together with its narthex and cloister, the latter damaged by French troops in 1690. Annex to the Abbey one finds the Loggia del Mercato (the covered market) and the Ospizio dei pellegrini, (the guest-quarters), both in Gothic style. The abbey played an important role in reclaiming and developing that area in medieval time, when it became one of the most important agricultural and trading centre of Piedmont.
Going to Envie, toward the Infernotto Valley one finds the Malabaila Castle, built in the 14th century and restored in neo-Gothic style. The Baroque parish church of Saints Marcellus and Peter keeps the Romanesque bell tower of the 12th century. Further on, one encounters Barge separated into upper and lower part by the torrent Infernotto. Barge was mentioned in documents already in 1001 a.C. and it was built over an ancient site, probably a Roman pagus. The historical centre keeps medieval buildings of the late 15th century and the monumental Baroque parish church of Saint John the Baptist, by Francesco Gallo (1730-38) with a Romanesque-Lombard bell tower, originally belonging to the medieval pieve. On the hill behind the village, near the Bracco mountain, one finds the village castle dating back to the 12th century and in part destroyed by French troops in 1554.
Along the SP 27 road, one continues to Bagnolo Piemonte, an art and craft centre dedicated to manufacturing of the Luserna stone extracted in nearby caves. Originally, the village stood at the foot of the Malingri Castle (12th century), south-west of the current site. The castle complex includes also the Palazzo or Castello Piano and a wide park area which still belongs to the heirs of the Malingri Counts of Bagnolo. The Malingri Palace includes an ancient Chapel of Saint Sebastian, with its restored 15th century frescoes depicting Saint Sebastian and stories of the Passion of Christ. In medieval time, the village was aggregated to the castle whereas from the 16th century it expanded in the plane, on the site of the Convent of Saint Peter. A Romanesque-Gothic bell tower is what remains of the ancient church of the convent run by the canons of Oulx. The neo-Gothic parish church dates back to the 19th century.
From Saluzzo, along the SP 47 road, one reaches the short Bronda Valley rich of fruit trees on its bottom part and of woods in the upper part. Near Castellar, the small Chapel of Saint Ponzo (13th century) keeps frescoes of the middle 15th century, by Pietro di Saluzzo. Castellar is dominated by the castle of the Marquises of Saluzzo dating back to the 15th century and built on a more ancient fortress-house (14th century). The castle hosts the Ethnographic Museum open to the public during the regional event «Castelli aperti». The provincial road reaches then Pagno, built around the Monastery of Saint Columbanus, in Lombard time. The church, destroyed during the Saracen invasion, was rebuilt and then renewed in the 18th century. It keeps a Romanesque bell tower of the 11th century and a fresco depicting Saint Michael, by Hans Clemer. Up to the valley, one finds Brondello, village gathered around the Clock Tower and the ruins of the castle. On the façade of the parish church of Ascension stands a paint of Saint Christopher (15th century).
From Staffarda, going to the Po Valley, the SP 222 road finds Revello, at the foot of the south part of Bracco Mountain. The town was fortified by the Marquises of Saluzzo in the 15th century and some of the defensive buildings are still visible along the ruins of the old town walls, at Porta Soprana, Rivellino and at the Rocca di Bramafam. The Marchionale Castle on Denina square hosts the town hall. The castle was built in the 15th century by Ludovico II and his wife Margherita of Foix. Near the only remaining tower of the castle one finds the late-Gothic Marchionale Chapel which is open to visitors: it keeps some frescoes by Hans Clemer (16th century) with stories of Saints and the Marquis Couple and Sons. Worth of mention is also the reproduction of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, realized in 1519. Nearby, the former kindergarten hosts the Po Naturalistic Museum. On the west side of the town, one finds the Collegiata, built in late Gothic style and decorated with a Renaissance portal, by Matteo Sanmicheli from Porlezza. On the inside, one finds the polyptych of Saints Peter and Paul and other Saints by Hans Clemer and other two polyptychs of the 16th century, by Pascale Oddone.
Along the SS 662 road which crosses the Po valley, one leaves Revello and reaches Rifreddo, an agricultural centre on the south part of the Bracco Mountain. In the 13th century the town hosted the feminine Cistercian Monastery of Santa Maria della Stella, founded by the Marquises of Saluzzo. Only some ruins remain of that monastery: the façade of the church and some walls, today included in a farm house in Monastero road (Via del Monastero). The town hall dates back to the 15th century and shows an original façade "a vela".
Crossing the river, one reaches Sanfront, village known since the 11th century. Sanfront was built at the foot of a castle which was then destroyed in the 17th century. The main road, Via Mazzini, is enriched by medieval arcades and brings to the parish church of Saint Martin dating back to the 15th century and renewed in the 19th century. In the external part of the apse, the church keeps a fresco depicting the Virgin Mary Enthroned. On the other side of the valley, with a short walk from hamlets Robella or Rocchetta one reaches Balma Boves, an ancient settlement placed under a rock of the Bracco Mountain and inhabited until the 1950s. The village underwent restoration and it is accessible for guided tours on Sundays and public holidays.
Following the SS 662 road, one finds Paesana, separated by the river into hamlet Saint Margaret and hamlet Saint Mary. The Baroque parish church of Saint Mary holds in its façade two 16th century statues depicting the Marquis of Saluzzo Ludovico II and a Abbot. From hamlet Agliasco it is possible to take an astonishing view on the Monviso peak. The provincial road goes up into the narrow valley and the upper villages are found on hillside on well-exposed hillocks. On the right-hand side of the valley lays Oncino reachable through a steep road partially engraved in the rock. The village includes several hamlets placed on a spur among alpine pastures. Oncino suffered a strong emigration which significantly reduced the population. It is a starting point for pleasant hiking tours: the Madonna del Bel Faggio is reachable in half hour walk. On the left-hand side of the valley one finds Ostana, a lively village with a privileged view on the Monviso (3841 m) along a woody slope. The village, made up of scattered hamlets, is today a small laboratory of alpine architecture where traditional features have been well preserved. The former town hall in the main hamlet La Villa hosts the Ethnographic Museum of Ostana and Upper Po Valley dedicated in particular to the manufacturing of hemp. The hamlets are linked by a network of hiking paths «Le vie d'Oustano» which brings up to the pasture areas. The chapel in hamlet San Bernardo keeps a fresco dating back to the 15th century. A walking path brings to San Nicolau, place of a small church dating back to the 14th century. In the upper part of the village, from hamlets Serre and Pian de la Charm it is possible to follow for some more demanding trails reaching Punta Sellassa (2036 m) and Cima Ostanetta (2300 m) with a spectacular view on the whole alpine range: Monviso, Monterosa and the Cervino mountains.
In the upper part of the valley stands Crissolo, placed in a wider basin and composed of several hamlets. The village is a small ski resort. On its east side stands the Sanctuary of San Chiaffredo, built on the place of the martyrdom of the soldier of Theban legion. The sanctuary dates back to the 15th century and keeps thousands of votive paintings decorating the sanctuary walls. The neo-Gothic façade dates back to the early 20th century. From Crissolo the road continues toward Pian della Regina and up to Pian del Re, starting points of several hiking trails to the Monviso.
The Po River Park
The Monviso Massif and the river Po belong to the Cuneo part of the Regional Po River Park which preserves a wide area around the longest Italian river, from the Alps to the Lomellina plan. Among the several valuable environments of the Po valley it is worth to mention the glacial lakes which feed the source of the river and the peat bog at Pian del Re, home of several endemic species such as the black salamander of Lanza. A valuable environment is also the confluence of torrent Bronda into the Po river not far from the Staffarda Abbey where large shores are colonized by herbaceous and bushy vegetation and it is possible to find population of rare wall lizards. Several visitor centres and recreational areas allow to appreciate and enjoy those environments, for example at Paesana or not far from Saluzzo at Paracollo (Ponte Pesci Vivi) in a farm house including 19 hectares of park.