- Written by Pietro Ramunno
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Clinging to one of the Langhe's highest hills, its most recent expansion spreading down towards the foothills, sits one of the most beautiful villages in all of Italy: Neive. Already an Ancient Roman center around 100 B.C., the historical heart of the city dates back to 1000 A.D. Medieval aspects of the hamlet can still be seen today in the red roofs that hang one over top another, overlooking the surrounding countryside. Row after row of vineyards line the rolling hills towards Asti Langa to the northeast and Alba on the opposite side. The Tanaro River stretches out to the west, and the east opens to the city of Mango and Alta Langa territory beyond.
“Johnny and his men went down to Neive on a calm September evening which with its mellowy breezy freshness invited a walk rather than a march.”
Beppe Fenoglio, Johnny the Partisan
The medieval clock tower still stands tall today, adding ancient value to the historical center where you can admire elegant buildings with baked-on siding, including the adjacent Casaforte dei Conti Cotti di Ceres (of the 13th century, according to one of Piedmont’s oldest documents on viticulture written by Francesco Cotti), the Palazzo of the Countess Demaria (16th century), the nearby gate of St. Rocco, the elegant Palazzo Bongiovanni Cocito (18th century), and finally the Palazzo of the Castelborgo Counts (18th century), a noble residence next to its gardens, worth a visit: pass under its elegant entrance with arches and double columns.
Upon finishing the architectural wonders of the town, a complete tour of Neive has to include a visit to the Bottega dei Quattro Vini in Piazza Italia. Passing under the arch that leads to the winery of the Community Palazzo, find yourself in an ideal place for tasting and purchasing wines made in the Neive hills, including Barbaresco, Barbera d’Alba, Dolcetto d’Alba, and Moscato d’Asti. If it’s lunchtime, stop by Ristoranteat La Luna nel Pozzo next to the Bottega to taste its traditional dishes made from almost 100% organically-certified products.
The Casa della Donna Selvatica (House of the Wild Woman) is also in Piazza Italia. This uniquely-named museum is dedicated to Neive native Romano Levi, the so-called “angelic grappa-maker” whose hand-designed labels are true works of art. His direct-fire distillery room in the lower part of town is re-lit every October in honor of the late Levi. Today, the Schiappapietra family continues to run the Levi Serafino Distillery, with big plans for the future.
Returning to Piazza Italia, the Bar da Lele is a good choice for the aperitivo, the so-called “Italian happy hour;” or, for a larger selection of food and snacks, check out Wine Bar Degusto. Along Via Cocito is the 18th century church of St. Michele’s Fraternity, right next to the parish church of Saints Pietro and Paolo (between two buildings that deserve a quick mention: the small churches of St. Rocco and St. Sebastiano at the town’s border on the hill that slopes towards the river Tanaro). There's the 17th century palazzo with the Bed & Breakfast L'Aromatario completely wrapped in ivy.
Turn onto Via Rocca, closing the loop of your historical visit of Neive by passing in front of the Pastry School and College, best known as the “Arte Bianca,” White Art, a high school of renowned excellence that specializes in pastry. And while on the subject of great baked goods, don’t miss a visit to the Pasticceria Curletti, famous for its sweets called Golosini; and the Pasticceria Dolce Neive, with its exquisite Baci cookies.
After dinner, drive to Bricco di Neive. Here, after salvaging an old school in 2007, Marco Marengo from the Baladin school (named for well-known Piedmontese brewer Teo Musso’s beer) launched the successful brewery called Birrificio Citabiunda. Enjoy craft beers and live music during the winter months in a very welcoming atmosphere. Try the SensuAle, a great Belgium monastic ale.
In the summer months, the cornerstone of country life plays out in the Sports Center in lower Neive, Acli Association, a place to find all generations of players in this center managed by Max and Loretta. The food is simple but good with popularly affordable prices, and patrons can be found playing card games of scopone into the early morning hours.
Finally, for meat-lovers, stop by the butchery Macelleria Cordero and farm La Pineta. If one short day isn’t enough to experience the beauty of Neive and its hills, you can always reserve a room in one of the numerous agriturismi and bed and breakfasts in the area; there are also many hotels, including Hotel Castelbourg, Hotel La Contea – Locanda, Hotel Villa Lauri, and Hotel dei Quattro Vini.