Perhaps not everyone knows that the province of Alessandria is one of the places in Italy with the highest concentration of abandoned villages. At the extreme southwest of Piedmont, the Ligurian Apennine hosts among its woods fascinating ghost villages, abandoned mainly in the Second World War because of its unfavorable position and the lack of elementary comforts, such as electricity and running water.
The Stone Villages
The starting point of this excursion is the small village of Vegni, reachable in about an hour from the Vignole Borbera highway exit on the A7 Milan-Genoa. The navigator is crucial to avoid getting lost in these winding lanes that wind up along the course of the Borbera torrent, among the slopes of Mount Antola's massif. The "Stone Villages" trail 242, along which there are three ghost countries, starts from here.
The trail, fairly easy and well marked, alternates panoramic views with stretches in the woods of durmasts and gigantic chestnut trees. After about an hour's walk you arrive at Casoni di Vegni, the largest of the three "Stone Villages" and the one with the greatest signs of abandonment and destruction: the houses, in fact, with the exception of one mostly intact, are all collapsed. The trees grown in them remind us of how fragile the works of man are in the face of the force of nature and the flow of time. Looking through the open doors and the cracks of the walls, there are also interesting testimonies of life in these countries, such as old machines for the processing of cereals and other objects.
Leaving Casoni, after half an hour of walking, you arrive at Ferrazza, the second ghost town on the trail. It is clear, however, at a first glance that Ferrazza is a particular case. In fact, despite being deserted, the country is not completely abandoned, thanks to a group of enthusiasts who, years ago, have restored some houses to use them during the summer, despite the lack of light and water connections. In addition, the village is located in a small clearing and also for this the aspect of the country is certainly less dull than Casoni, but at the same time even less fascinating.
The forgotten country of Rénéuzzi
With another twenty minutes’ walk you will reach the last of the "Stone Villages", no doubt the one around which revolve the greatest legends: Rénéuzzi. The first thing that you can encounter entering the village is the tiny cemetery, where you enter by pushing a rusty and creaky gate that houses about twenty tombs and graves now covered by moss and corroded by rain. The first one which attracts attention, however, is the most recent one, as well as the only one with a photo stone and a well-readable name: Davide Bellomo.
This name is related to the tragic crime that is the source of the many voices and legends associated with the village. In 1961, in fact, Bellomo fired the girl he was in love with, who was about to leave the birthplace to move to the city. Then he escaped into the woods and killed himself. There are many people who testify to have seen the ghost of the killer still infesting the houses of Rénéuzzi, but we have never noticed anything strange, if we exclude noises coming from the woods. However, we exclude the hypothesis of a ghost, suggesting for more realistic wild boars.
After leaving the cemetery there is the little church, very beautiful but unfortunately heavily damaged and doomed to certain collapse. Despite the danger, it's hard to resist getting in, just the time to take some photos. However, we highly recommend to pay attention!
Even here, as in Casoni, houses are almost all collapsed, but it is still interesting to cling to those that probably were the narrow streets of the village, now covered with rubble, and gaze through the windows of the few surviving houses, trying to imagine the lives of the people who lived there.
Once you have finished Reneuzzi's visit, you can choose whether to go along the trail, which with a steep downhill goes down to the valley floor where the Campassi Creek runs, along which you can find two interesting crushed mills, or to go back following your steps, returning to Vegni in a couple of hours.
If you want to break away for a few hours from everyday life, immersing yourself in nature and isolating you from civilization (there isn’t even cell service!), the Stone Villages trail is the right place. Beware of ghosts, though!