The Village of Canelli and Its Underground Cathedrals in the Asti Province

Home » The Village of Canelli and Its Underground Cathedrals in the Asti Province

On a hilltop surrounded by vineyards, you’ll find the village of Canelli. This part of Piedmont known as Langhe-Roero and Monferrato is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Canelli is the perfect destination any time of year, but during autumn, with the vineyards changing colors and the wafting aromas of the harvest, it is truly something special. 

1. History

It is almost impossible to talk about Canelli’s history without mentioning its tradition of harvesting wine grapes. In fact, even the Romans knew that this microclimate provided the ideal conditions for growing. Today, Canelli produces DOC and DOCG wines including Asti spumante, Moscato d’Asti, Alta Langa, Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Cortese dell’alto Monferrato, Dolcetto d’Asti, Freisa d’Asti, and Piemonte.

About 200 years ago, a marvel of both engineering and enology began to take shape beneath the village. Elaborate tunnels were painstakingly carved out of the tuff forming the perfect wine cellars for Canelli’s precious wines and spumante. In 2014, these very cellars, known as “underground cathedrals” were declared Italy’s 50th UNESCO World Heritage Site.


In 1865, Carlo Gancia produced the very first Italian spumante, right here in Canelli and the Gancia Winery is still going strong today. You can book a guided tour of the underground cathedrals with either the Bosca, Contratto, Coppo,  or Gancia Wineries. 

2. Art

In Canelli’s case, the underground cathedrals are its art! Most of the historical buildings and churches were redone during the Baroque period. The church of San Tommaso for example likely already existed in the year 961 but was rebuilt between the 17th and 18th centuries. 

Canelli’s castle was destroyed in 1617 during the war against Monferrato but it was rebuilt almost immediately. It is now privately owned by the Gancia family. Just getting to the castle is an adventure because you can take the famous Via degli Innamorati or “Lovers’ Lane”. You’ll start from lower Canelli by following the tree-lined street of Piazza Zoppa and on to Piazza San Tommaso. The ascent is a cobblestone path (Sternia) lined with artwork by various artists all of whom were inspired by illustrator Raymond Peynet. The panoramic views of the countryside and village are spectacular!

3. Cuisine and Culture

Canelli is not only synonymous with great wine but also with white truffles (tartufo biancoand even hazelnuts. Autumn is the perfect time to visit to enjoy all the flavors of the season. In September, it hosts Città del Vino, and in November the Fiera di San Martino and the Fiera Regionale del Tartufo Bianco. If you happen to be visiting in the summertime, the historic center is transformed into an open-air restaurant with Canelli in Gala in July.

4. Outdoor Activities

The entire province of Asti and the Langhe offer unlimited possibilities from hiking, biking, and horseback riding through the rolling vineyards that produce some of the world’s greatest wines. Or maybe, your exercise for the day will simply be taking the pleasant stroll up to the Gancia castle and enjoying the views and amazing art.


5. Tips

Canelli is connected by the Italian railway system via the larger city of Asti. You can also take a trip on a vintage 1930s-era train departing from Turin and arriving in Canelli. More information here.

Read more about the UNESCO area of Langhe and Monferrato!