08.00 in the morning, a full breakfast, everything you need for a long walk, backpack ready the night before, a supply of water, boots on and off you go …!
Meet the group at 09.00 and on time! … for to get up there through the countryside takes at least three hours.
A white minibus arrives! Here they are: ‘Good morning’ … greetings in classic north European accents! A brief exchange of impressions of the Bike Day the day before and it sets off.
A few hundred metres of paved road, no time to warm up your legs before we are on the path in the woods and climb up … fast!
The first part of the path is quite challenging where, in some places, one has to hold on to the trees to avoid slipping. A view of the valley from a point half way up makes you realise how quickly we have gained height!
Here, in a grove at the top of the hill, the trail becomes less arduous and we can walk more quickly. The path on the ridge offers an enchanting view of the Bormida valley and the small, quaint villages that populate it. After the first hour of walking, spent almost entirely in silence to save one’s breath, you begin to glimpse, in the distance, the outline of the first tower: San Giorgio Scarampi.
Talk comes spontaneously and we chat about customs, country, language, curious to discover and share ways of living in completely different environments.
In the village on the steep hill there is a small bar: entering I make sure it is open and place orders … ‘6 Cappucinos and a Coffee’ … I say to the owner, a lady in her sixties who looks at me in astonishment and asks, in a Piemontese accent ‘I beive que’? (To drink here?) … I … ‘Yes, please’ … ! She … ‘Va bein, spite’ fora, anseteve!’ (OK, wait outside, sit down) The group looks at me curiously and somehow, without translation, understand!
In few minutes we are on the move again, we must not lose speed. A short descent leaving the soaring tower behind and we enter a large chestnut wood.
You walk on a bed of golden leaves, reddish and curled and amongst them brown chestnuts. Imprinted on the damp ground and clay are the hoof marks of deer and wild boar of which there are many in this area. Time passes quickly as there are so many things to see in this wonderful countryside.
Suddenly a huge meadow opens before us at the end of which you can see the last part of the path.
As you get closer to the summit of the hill you see the clear outline of a stylized cross created in memory of people who died in war.
We are more than 800m above sea level, the highest point in the province of Asti.
The views of the landscape capture our attention completely but … we have not arrived yet!
We take the paved provincial road then a bumpy path and stone staircase and, all of a sudden, we enter the village square: and … we do not know in which direction to look first there are so many wonders around us.
On the right the imposing stone walls of the castle and the massive, round medieval tower and, opposite, the unique, magnificent Bramantesca Church.
For a few seconds there is total silence! … The beauty of the place has robbed us of our voices.
Immediately I turn to the group and, pointing upwards, whisper that our destination is up there … the top of the tower!
Astonished, they look at me and at the majestic building wondering how one can get to the top. Just a moment … I say and I go into the bar and come out with a very small key in my hand.
All follow me in silence. The first flight of winding stairs brings us to the tiny entrance. I unlock the old padlock and, moving the heavy wrought iron bolt, push the door open …
A dark corridor leads us from the small, low door to the middle of the massive tower. Groping, I try to find, on the left (from memory), the switch to turn on the light.
With a nod I point to the first anxiously waiting to start, recommending that backpacks are taken off and carried by hand.
A set of stairs takes us through the hatches on the upper floors leading us slowly towards the top. The silence is interrupted only by the sound of feet treading on the steep wooden steps, the only noise that accompanies us to the last flight of stairs.
The final passage and a tight squeeze, I slip, and, pushing open the heavy iron door, I emerge into the sunlight.
The last 10 steps, of a total of 99, take us out on to a circular terrace with a diameter of 35m that anyone who has climbed up walks round in absolute silence, eyes fixed on the horizon.
Wahoo!! In any direction you look, the Piemonte countryside looks incredibly beautiful! The hills of the Langhe and Monferrato seem painted in small, multicoloured squares, the stone terraces embroider the steep valleys and, in the background, the Alpes form the backdrop to this amazing and wonderful panorama.
The effort needed to reach this paradise is amply rewarded.
Watch this great video of the 5 towers.
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