Highlights and tour details
Go through the centre of Ovada and exit in the direction of Alessandria. Once past the Orba torrent, take the road that leads to Rocca Grimaldi: the first part of the route is flat but the road then climbs with a number of hairpin turns until you reach this characteristic village, grouped around the Castle of Malaspina and Grimaldi, with its circular tower, ghosts and Italian garden.
Continuing along the ridge of the Ovada hills (home to Dolcetto) you reach another medieval village dominated by an antique castle with square tower and defence walls: Carpeneto.
Up and down among the hills, you arrive at Trisobbio, with its stone tower that you can climb and admire the surrounding countryside. After more difficult hills, you arrive at Cremolino, a stone built hamlet grouped around a medieval castle. Descend down to the valley again and continue in the direction of Ovada, past the village of Molare, with its castle that was restored at the end of the 17th century by the architect Alfredo D’Andrade, but dates back to ancient times as a rock fortress. Once you leave Ovada in the direction of Novi Ligure, leave the country road and go right towards Tagliolo Monferrato, a small hamlet of houses in tuff rock with a defence wall around the castle of Pinelli Gentile.
Continue along the ridge that goes along the buttress of rock upon which appears Lerma, the stone castle of Spinola dominates the overhang of the Piota torrent. Continue to climb along hairpin bends until you reach the medieval hamlet. The road continues along tortuous roads that wind through hills and forest until you reach the imposing and suggestive Castle of Casaleggio Boiro. This point is already the slope of the Apennines; continue towards the hamlet of Mornese, close to the Castle of the Doria. From Mornee there is a pleasant road along the ridge leading to Montaldeo, dominated by another elegant castle of the Doria family, known for being haunted. A welcome descent leads to Castelletto d’Orba, with a 13th century Castle. A tortuous but pleasing climb amongst the vineyards through tiny hamlets such as Crebini and Cazzuli takes you to San Cristoforo, with the Castle of the Spinola and its triangular tower.
The route continues down a steep descent, crossing the Lemme torrent with deep waters and gorges carved into the porous rock, and climbs steadily to Gavi. In this medieval village, you can visit the first century ancient Fort, built up during the 16th and 17 centuries. You can reach it via a steep, narrow climb that brings you to one of the main entrances. Leaving Gavi in the direction of Francavilla-Basaluzzo, continue along a flat road that runs along the Lemme torrent, winding through the ancient 17th and 18th century villas leading to Francavilla Bisio, where an abandoned castle stands. The road runs alongside the castle with a gentle descent in the direction of Tassarlo that can be reached following the golf course. Exit Tassrolo with the imposing Spinola Castle in the direction of Novi. There are a few more demanding kilometres up and down to Novi.
The route starts from Novi Ligure, with a view of the castle tower and the walls that protected the rock and tunnels carved under the fortified rock. Leave Novi along the San Marziano road, a small road that weaves through fields running along the railway line. Shortly you reach Pozzolo Formigaro, home to the 3rd or 4th century castle with a tall tower. Once you leave Villalvernia, continue along a country road that goes through the hamlet of Bettole and its farmsteads. Go past the Scrivia torrent and continue on the right of the torrent in the direction of Tortona: climb towards Spineto Scrivia and continue to Carbonara Scrivia and its suggestive ancient square tower.
From the hills, the route descends again to Tortona; enter the city before climbing the hill towards the castle. Cycle past the imposing archaeological remains of the ancient roman walls and climb to the castle tower, the only surviving fort or castle following the Napoleonic destruction in this area. From Tortona, go on to Castelnuovo Scrivia, with its medieval castle Torriani-Bandello, along a flat tarmacked road.
By Claudio Pasero and Daniela Pestarino