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Valle Versa

From Asti leave by Corso Casale in the direction of Casale Monferrato you are heading towards Portacomaro. Upon reaching the boundary on viale Degiani , the road leading to Scurzolengo, at the point where the ancient cemetery is sighted, at the top of the stone stairway, in brick and sandstone crowned with lombard bands of the Romanesque church of San Pietro (11th century) appears. Well worth seeing are the south side and the interior. Continuing towards Refrancore, where, 3 kilometres from Refrancore, along the Asti road, half hidden between the houses of the village of the same name we find the small church of the Maddalena with Romanesque traces discovered during the recent restoration.
Continue along the road towards the village of Viarigi. The small church dedicated to San Marziano is privately owned and is isolated at the summit of a hillock 3 kilometres outside the built up area (external visits only).
A short distance before reaching the medieval village of Montemagno, with its splendid castle, turning to the left and just passing the cemetery, on a small hillock with a splendid view of Monferrato the ruins of the church of SS. Vittore e Corona appear, comprising of an apse with its respective semi-dome in bands of brick and sandstone, and a bell tower. From Montemagno continue towards Casorzo: the 19th century church of S. Maria delle Grazie, at the centre of a hill, laid out as park land, conceals the Romanesque in the apse and in the south side, where the sandstone masonry is embellished by interwoven arches and strongly splayed single light windows. Speaking of the Romanesque, the municipality of Grazzano Badoglio is well worth a visit to see the bell tower of the current parish church of the SS. Vittore e Corona (the church that is said to house the grave of the Marquese Aleramo – 961 AD) and that, even with many restorations over the years, still features the Romanesque structure of the lost abbey. Not very far away and deserving a visit is the church of San Pietro of Calliano, which is located along the provincial road to Grana (via Cavour – which branches off the SS457 road) in a small field near a curve in the provincial road. Today the building shows a Neo-Gothic facade. The apse is the only existing part of the original church, crowned with a Lombard band formed in single stone elements supported on consoles, higher up the bricks form a saw tooth decoration.
From Calliano you descend on the Asti-Casale state road until the turning for Cocconato – Montiglio. Follow the old road of Valle Versa until the turning for Corsione: quite visible from the road, at the summit of a vineyard, is the small church of the Madonna di Aniceto with the 18th century white baroque facade and Romanesque apse. After years of being abandoned the church was recovered and entrusted to the care of the winery, in which it is found . Continue along the valley and turn for Scandeluzza: arriving there, in the proximity of the cemetery the small church of the Santi Sebastiano e Fabiano with the preserved apse in alternate blocks of stone and brick with crowned by a double Lombard band with floral decorations in sandstone, according to the Romanesque style in Monferrato. In the interior, which may be visited, (always open) there are frescos dating back to 1440 depicting Christ framed in a mandorla and surrounded by figures of saints and symbols of the Apostles.
In the nearby village of Colcavagno, inside the cemetery (may be visited) the church of the SS. Vittore e Corona features decorative Romanesque elements re-used and introduced in the masonry in the later reconstructions (fragments Lombard bands, figures of animals and vegetation). In Cunico at the summit of the small hill San Martino is the church of the same name, sole evidence of the ancient settlement of Ponengo, that still shows some Romanesque traces of fragments introduced in the masonry, following the restorations.(external visits only).
A little further on one climbs to Montiglio Monferrato, dominated by the imposing castle: a short distance from the central square, at the entrance to the cemetery the parish church of San Lorenzo welcomes us with a recent facade, but the real surprise is inside the church where the capitals of the pillars preserve symbolic depictions typical of the Romanesque.
Pushing on beyond Cocconato, in the northern most point of the province in the direction of and a little before Tonengo, on the outskirts of the hamlet of Ottini, isolated on a high hill, we find the chapel of San Michele that preserves the original building texture in sandstone and terracotta in the side walls and in the apse. Of interest is the access arch (now bricked up), on the south side, whose cornice in sandstone has an attractive rhomboid decoration.
Returning on the road of the Valle Versa in the direction of Asti, at the turning for Montechiaro one can see on the right hand side the splendid bell tower of the church of the SS. Nazario e Celso, one of the most representative of the Romanesque parish churches in the Asti area, both for its location in the landscape, and for the unique colours obtained by alternating brick and sandstone in its construction. Surprising also is the contrast between the meagre dimensions of the church and the four floors of the bell tower. It is pleasant to arrive on foot by means of the easy path between the fields to enjoy the charming views of Monferrato. The interior does not have any special significance but it can however be visited, requesting the key from the farm at the foot of the hill.

Finally the last stage is in Castell'Alfero at the small church of the Madonna della Neve The church is found in an attractive locality isolated and hidden among the trees. The bell tower is cylindrical (sole example in the Romanesque Asti area). Noteworthy also is the apse, with an elegant two-colour chequered pattern, and the sculpted single light windows.