Santo Stefano Belbo (San Stéo an Belb in Piedmontese) is an Italian town of just under 4,000 inhabitants in the province of Cuneo in Piedmont. It is the easternmost municipality in the province and the one with the lowest altitude. From January 1st, 2019, it incorporated the neighboring municipality of Camo.
The territory of Santo Stefano Belbo, which measures just over 23 square kilometers, extends to the margins of the Langhe, on a largely hilly territory, except for the alluvial plain formed by the Belbo torrent.
The hilly parts are made up of limestone and sandstone marls, while the valley floor area is formed by recent floods.
The town is located at an altitude of 175 meters above sea level, while on both sides of the river it reaches quickly, above all in the north side, high hills which culminate in the 590 meters of the Falchetto locality.
From an artistic point of view, the imposing remains of the Romanesque abbey of San Gaudenzio, at the foot of the Moncucco hill, are worth mentioning.
The construction recalls the period in which the Benedictine monks, in addition to tilling the lands to dedicate them to the cultivation of the vine, offered hospitality to the pilgrims. Remarkable is the sanctuary of Moncucco, named after the Madonna della Neve.
The municipal coat of arms and the municipal banner recall the importance of grape cultivation: in fact the vine that gives life to the city is depicted.
The most famous son of S. Stefano Belbo is Cesare Pavese, whose native house is home to an important museum.
The built-up area of Santo Stefano Belbo can probably be dated after 1000, even if a small settlement had already existed before, placed as a strategic control at the beginning of the road that wound along the Belbo valley.
There is sure news of a settlement dating back to Roman times, when a fortified military post was built along the road that connected Asti and Alba with the centers of the Riviera di Ponente.
More precise information on the construction of the village come to us in the Middle Ages, with the construction of a castle (castrum) on the hill of S. Libera and a Benedictine convent (S. Gaudenzio) built probably on the remains of an older temple dedicated to Jupiter . Benedictine monks have the merit of having introduced the cultivation of the vine in their possessions.
S. Stefano Belbo had considerable importance in the feudal period, of which the ruins of one of the towers of the ancient castle remain.
From a receptive point of view, the Relais San Maurizio stands out in Santo Stefano, which has a long history that began in 1619, when a group of Cistercian monks who went up the Via del Sale came across the ruins of an ancient chapel.
On these foundations they decided to erect a new place of prayer and work. Over time, the work of men made the hill particularly fertile for different crops: vines and cereals, but also medicinal herbs and spices.
In 1862 the monastery and its lands were purchased by the Marquis of Incisa family and the monastic austerity was put aside to make room for grotesque decorations and trompe l’oeil, fabrics and fireplaces.
In 2002, after 4 years of conservative restoration, the Relais comes to life: an adventure that began 4 centuries ago, which continues today, with 36 rooms and suites obtained from the monastic cells, has been a synthesis of the values of hospitality for over ten years high level: comfort, art, culture and technology.
The philosophy of the Relais is to combine modernity and tradition, in a journey to rediscover their balance and the art of “good living”. Ideal for those looking for a refined stay, but do not want to give up contact with nature.