The Maira Valley is the wildest and richest in works of art valleys of Saluzzo. A very good path’s network called “Sentieri occitani” is the top for naturalistic and cultural tourism. It is provided with stages very well organized. From Saluzzo take the SR 589 towards Cuneo.
In the proximity of BUSCA, follow the signs towards the Maira Valley. VILLAR SAN CONSTANZO (m. 605 ) is 10 km from Busca. The Villar Parish, rebuilt in 1722 by F. Gallo, it was the old church of SS. PIETRO AND COSTANZO ABBEY (VII cent.) which remains the evocative CRYPT (XI-XII cent.) and the beautiful SAN GIORGIO CHAPEL, frescoed in 1469 by the painter Pietro from Saluzzo. Nearby Villar there is the CICIU DEL VILLAR NATURE RESERVE, in which you can find weird and curious erosion columns with a big stone at the top of them.
Following the road to DRONERO (622 m.), avoiding the city centre, you take a road on the right that leads to the old Santa Maria Delibera Sanctuary (XI-XIX cent.) and moreover (only paved at the beginning of the road) to the SAN COSTANZO AL MONTE SANCTUARY (VIII-XII cent.). Here the splendid Romanic interior, decorated with reliefs and carved capitula, takes in a big crypt where once the martyr
Costanzo’s relics were kept.
In Dronero you must have a walk in the old town, to see the crenelated PONTE VECCHIO over the MAIRA (1428) where you can enjoy a beautiful view of the town. Then the gothic SS. ANDREA E PONZIO PARISH, with the marble main door carved by the sculptors Zabreri (1461); the fourteenth-century FORO FRUMENTARIO (a loggia for the market town), MALLÈ MUSEUM, where you can find a collection of old paintings, sculptures and other prestigious objects; the SON DE LENGA MUSEUM managed by the Espaci Occitan Association; then the arcades, the squares, the cafes, the several aristocratic buildings that enhance the town.
Leaving back Dronero you take the Maira Valley, on the right there is ROCCABRUNA municipality with its 92 small villages surrounded by forests and magnificent pinewoods. At the top of the town there is the S.ANNA SANCTUARY. 6,5 km from Roccabruna there is CARTIGNANO municipality (694 m.) with its mighty CASTLE (visit not allowed). From here you go on for 3,5 km until you reach SAN DAMIANO MACRA (m 736).
The village preserves works of the sculptors ZABRERI (mid half of the 1400) in the parish and also in a old church in the village of PAGLIERO, 3 km from the centre.
Passing Lottulo there is MACRA municipality and nearby the street SAN SALVATORE CHAPEL (XII cent.) stands. Together with the San Peyre church of Stroppo (oldest church of the valley), they preserve inside some Romanic and fifteen-century frescoes. After the Macra Parish, a pedestrian track brings to SAN PIETRO CHAPEL (XIV-XV cent.) which is decorated inside with some frescoes about a MACABRE DANCE followed by Occitan and old French verses.
On the left of Macra a road goes up to CELLE MACRA (1270 m.), the village of the anchovy’s sellers, an old travelling job which the local museum is dedicated to.
In SAN GIOVANNI BATTISTA PARISH (XVIII cent.) you can find the beautiful POLYPTYC by Hans Clemer, the painter that worked in Elva for the Marquises of Saluzzo (1496). Some meters away from the centre, SAN SEBASTIANO CHAPEL preserves an exceptional series of frescoes of the painter Giovanni Baleison from Demonte (1484), representing the afterworld with brilliant fantasy. Going on the SR 422, you reach STROPPO (1087m.) the old chief town of the Valley. If you take the alternative way to PASCHERO village, where there is the San Giovanni Battista Parish (XV cent.), you reach SAN PEYRE CHURCH (XII-XV cent). It is one of the most important monuments of the Valley. On the inside, it preserves frescoes of the fourteen-fifteen century, very beautiful the ones of the so-called “Maestro di Stroppo” (“master of Stroppo” TN) with histories about the Virgin (mid ‘400). Passing Stroppo on the SR 422 you can take the characteristic STRADA DEL VALLONE on the right and reach ELVA (1637 m.), maybe the most evocative village of the Valley for its isolation and its art treasures.
The SANTA MARIA ASSUNTA PARISH (XIV-XVIII cent.) has got on the inside an extraordinary series of HANS CLEMER’S FRESCOES, the “Maestro di Elva” (“master of Elva” TN). There is the history about the Virgin (1504), with a splendid Crucifixion. There is also a series of Romanic sculptures (portal, triumphal arch, baptismal font, XV cent.). Elva – with its good tracks network – it’s famous for the tradition of the “Caviè”, the hair travelling merchants. This was an important job for the inhabitants of Elva until the beginning of the XX cent. (there is a small museum about this tradition). Go down the main road and you will find a turning on the left and from here you will reach MARMORA and CANOSIO, two small villages very interesting to go on some unmissable excursion. In Marmora, SAN SEBASTIANO CHAPEL preserves a series of frescoes from Baleison (1470); the PARISH is situated higher and has got frescoes by the Biazaci’s brothers from Busca (1479) and in important Romanic gravestone.
Going down again the main Valley and going to west you can find PRAZZO municipality (1030 m.) with its beautiful parish and the hemp museum.
Finally the last municipality of the Valley is ACCEGLIO (1220), with a beautiful HOLY ART MUSEUM preserving objects coming from the church of the high Valley. From Acceglio after about 7 km, at the bottom of the splendid Rocca Provenzale, you reach the small village of CHIAPPERA, base of many fantastic excursion in the high Valley.
RELIGIOUS ART IN THE MAIRA VALLEY
- Villar S.Costanzo - S.Costanzo al Monte Parish
- S.Damiano - L'officina degli scultori Zabreri di Pagliero
- Macra - San Salvatore
- Macra– San Pietro Chapel
- Celle Macra– San Giovanni Battista Parish
- Celle Macra - San Sebastiano Chapel
- Stroppo - San Peyre
- Elva - S. Maria Assunta Parish
- Marmora–SS. Giorgio e Massimo Parish
- Marmora–SS. Sebastiano and Fabiano Chapel