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Topiary Architecture

and the village of Carema

The terraces are supported but dry stone walls and are filled with fertile morainal soil brought up from the bottom of the valley. Pillars having the shape of a truncated cone made of stone and lime line the terraces. Vine trellises rest on the flat stone “caps” placed on top of the pillars. In the local dialect the name for the vine pergola is “topia” or “tupiun”, while “pilun” is the name for the white pillars supporting it and which inspired the unusual definition of “Bacchus’s Temples” (by Renato Ratti).
Over and above their scenic effect, these masses of rock play a very important role: in the day they store the heat of the sun and then release it in the night, thus attenuating the difference in temperature range between day and night.

The village of Carema lies in a beautiful sunny valley north west of Piedmont and marks the divide between Piedmont and the Aosta Valley. In past centuries it has been the border with the Gaul first, and then with the Kingdom of Burgundy. Among the most ancient buildings are the “Gran Mason” and the House of Ugoni. The first is a large three storey house built in the shape of a cube dated back to the early Middle Ages. The latter, also named Tour Pierre, is a complex structure composed of a number of buildings connected with one another and dominated by a central tower. The ruins of the Castruzzone castle, the ancient Castrum Ugonis built in the 12th century and destroyed in the 16th during the war with the French, overlook the Airale hamlet. Of great architectural interest are also two ancient fountains dating back to 1460 and 1575. Another pride for Carema is its 18th century bell tower, rising next to the parish church of San Martino: it tops 60m in height and is considered to be an architectural work of art unique in its kind in Piedmont. The backdrop to the village is a spectacular expanse of vineyards clinging onto rocky slopes up to an altitude of 600 masl.