- Written by Roberta Bertero
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If an artist designed a geometric form to contain all of the Roero, Govone would represent the easternmost point of that figure. This landlocked territory that sits halfway between Alba and Asti has a royal viewing point of the lands laid out below next to its castle, from the Tanaro River to the Asti Langa stretching out to the left.
Before arriving at the castle, admire Govone in its entirety, looking at it from afar like an Impressionist work of art. One of the best viewpoints is from the community of San Pietro: from this position, the circular layout of Govone seems to be planned with the express desire to highlight the castle, surrounded by the lush green of its park. Going through the community, you’ll realize that the Govonese territory is essentially agricultural, with well-groomed hills covered in grapes for producing Barbera (representing three-quarters of the vineyards in the countryside), Arneis, Nebbiolo, Bonarda, and Favorita. The walk satisfies any yearning for picturesque views. From this vantage point, the Tanaro Valley and its scarred landscape of ugly warehouses is yet hidden from view. In San Pietro, take a replenishing break in the family estate Maria Cantamessa: among the many sweets and delicacies in large mason jars, don't miss out on sampling the cognà, or Piedmontese jams, and peaches in syrup of Roero Arneis wine.
The first restaurant during the walk offers a taste of Sardinia, from where fresh peaches arrive two to three times a week. A small restaurant with about twenty covers, the excellent service and intimate atmosphere show that Govone knows how to impress its visitors. Restaurant San Pietro is run by the Mo brothers - Flavio, the chef, and Franco, who manages the front of the house - and boasts the first champagne bar in Italy with exclusive rights for Mumm Perrier-Jouët. Guests may choose to open the bottle with a sabre à Champagne, a Champagne sword, and carry home the cork in a silk purse. Other great cuisine of high quality is that of Chef Pier Bussetti at the restaurant Al Castello di Govone, found in a singularly exceptional place in the center of town: the ex-stables of the mansion, recently restructured.
The castle has been gaining in value for some years, beginning in 1997 when it was included among the Savoy residences of Piedmont that Unesco formed in its Artistic World Heritage list. A visit to the Castle, with its English park that folds out to the north and west and its hanging gardens with fountains and flower beds to the east, is a must-see for tourists. The silence takes you back in time to when King Carlo Felice of Savoy loved the tranquillity so much that he favored this summer residence for making important state decisions. The park and road have always been local hotspots for the town's population to meet; every Wednesday is the ever-growing market, and each year is a celebrated livestock fair. Inside the castle, the most interesting rooms are the Chinese ones on the northwest side, panelled with rare, Oriental wallpaper.
The social life of the community is inextricably linked to the castle and park, as the enogastronomic products show. The winery Produttori di Govone, made up of 200 town residents, produce bottles with Savoy labels that they give as gifts to visiting guests of the castle. Not tied to the glorious past of Govone, yet attentive to its restoration and the territory's value, is the estate Maurizio Ponchione. His "Bricco degli Albazzi," high up on a hill on the road towards San Marino, is a natural stage between the rows of Nebbiolo and Barbera where it is also possible to reserve a tasting session. From its high position, admire the castle, hills, and community of Craviano, with its small, white church next to the convent constructed under Carlo Felice, once connected to the castle by an underground tunnel. Today, it’s called Elves Hill. Numerous volunteers are working on the restoration of the convent to accommodate children in cancer remission who, together with their families, are looking for a way to live a serene life and smile again.