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By car: Leaving Asti you can reach Valleandona following the signs for the A21 motorway, heading in the direction of Torino by Corso XXV Aprile or Corso Torino. Leaving the town, passing the motorway access on the right, continue on the SS10 for about 7 km until signs indicate ‘Frazione Valleandona’ on the right hand side of the road.The Special Nature Reserves of Valle Andona, Valle Botto and Valle Grande are perhaps the most well known, also at an international level, for their Paleontological features rich in fossilised remains originating from marine organisms found in the sandy layers of the steep and wooded hills that characterise them.
The sea in fact covered the entire Po plane extending to the alpine mountains during the Pliocene period (from 5 to 1.8 million years ago): the Asti area was a spacious shallow inlet of sea bounded to south by the elevation of the Langhe, to west by the Gulf of Cuneo, to the north by a low island corresponding to the present northern Monferrato while to east it was joined to the Padano sea. The finding of fossils in our vineyards and on our hillsides is quite common and serves to safeguard this important scientific and cultural heritage that led to the creation, in 1985, of the Reserve.
At Valleandona you find the head office of the Ente Parchi Astigiani (Asti Parks Authority) where, on request you can visit an interesting museum room rich in fossil remains. The fossils are concentrated in particular layers that you can observe along the walls of the valley engravings. The numerous findings, from sea shells to remains of marine and land based vertebrates, dating from 1700 has drawn the attention of numerous scholars and researchers, which has contributed to spread curiosity and interest in paleontology; it deals with the shells of hundreds of species of marine molluscs in which scallop shells are excellently conserved. The molluscs are constituted of brachiopods, echinoids, corals and rare remains of vertebrates. The first human settlements in this territory date back beyond 10 thousand years. Based on the finding of scrapers, double sided knives foundations of huts, parts of dug-out canoes and other objects, it is assumed that the first men, perhaps of Ligurian origin, arrived in these zones following the course of the river Tanaro.
Now the woodland of the area is characterised by the presence of false acacia, British oak, hornbeam, lime and maple. Few, but precious are the forest pines, being the sole remaining evidence of colder geological periods. In the undergrowth the vigorous old-man’s beard climbs in the form of tumbling vines that alternate with honeysuckle, spindle tree, dog-wood and hazel trees.
Flowering thickets colour the forests from spring to autumn thanks to lungwort, primroses, anemones, wild geraniums, dog-tooth and sage. Butterflies a plenty, whose beauty is summarised by the presence of species like the podalirius, the swallowtail and varied ninfalidae. With a little bit of attention you can recognise beetles (flying deer) and birds (bee-eater, kestrel, hoopoe, jay, green-peak and barred woodpeckers). This is the home of squirrels as well as foxes, badgers, weasels, beech-martins, green lizards, non-poisonous snakes (like the aesculaian snake). In the pools of water formed from the spring rains it is possible to catch glimpses of Access to the paleontological route in Valle Botto where emergent fossilised remains, “purpose made” for the visits are present, is only allowed by reservation as a guided visit. The Ente Parchi Astigiani (Asti Parks Authority) organises guided visits free of charge as part of the annual programme of Europarc.
Entry to the area of Valleandona, in which the naturalist environmental area prevails, does not require guides or reservation: paths, mountain bike and horse trails and picnic areas are signed for visitors.