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To the South of the Tanaro River

To the South of the Tanaro River To the south of the Tanaro Romanesque churches are fewer in number compared to the other itineraries; the course of the Via Francigena continued mainly eastwards. The first stages are actually in the direction of Alessandria. A few kilometres from Asti, one finds Rocca d'Arazzo where, on a hillock a short distance from the boundry, is the church of the SS. Stefano e Libera. Even though it is completely rendered, the recent restorations disclosed some Romanesque peculiarities, above all in the apse, rather atypical for the structure, with respect to the other Romanesque churches within the province of Asti.
Continuing then towards Rocchetta Tanaro, where, having crossed the village and heading towards Nizza Monferrato one meets (in the plain a few metres from the road) the church of Santa Maria De Flesco, called delle Ciappellette due to the decoration created with broken pieces of salvaged tiles. The facade is Neo-Gothic but, as already pointed out in other contexts, it is sufficient to examine the apse to discover the Romanesque elements (external visits only).
Continuing then towards Nizza and thence to the Valle San Giovanni. Actually at the entrance to the valley, the church of San Giovanni delle Conche appears between the vineyards, attainable by means of a staircase decorated with lavender bushes, at one time the parish church of the lost village of the same name. In the reconstruction over the centuries the building has changed orientation but the Romanesque apse is still quite visible in the right flank of the church, with attractive decoration in sandstone in the consoles and on the single light windows (external visits only).
Reaching Calamandrana, continue towards Canelli and Cassinasco to enter the Asti Langa, the extremity of the province that is an area of evocative landscape. An essential stop at is at the Monastero Bormida, a village founded by the Benedictines in the 11th century. The castle was part of the abbatial complex of Santa Giulia of which the attractive bell tower remains.
The tower, in stone, features 4 sides each different to the other regarding openings and the string course decoration. The splendid Romanesque bridge over the Bormida, represents one of the most interesting medieval civil engineering works of the valley, corresponding to the bridge of the abbey of San Quintino in Spigno (Alessandria).
Actually crossing the bridge, travelling in the wild Valle Tatorba, we climb to Roccaverano, at 760m above sea level, the highest municipality of the province of Asti. Past the lookout tower of the village of Vengore, on the left there is the small cemetery with the church of San Giovanni. Here the only visible Romanesque remains are the structural walls of the lower part of the bell tower. In the interior however a precious series of frescoes completed in the 15th century is preserved. The function of the church was then reduced to that of a chapel for the cemetery with the construction of the present parish renaissance church of 1509.