The Ormea tower is unique in its genre, probably just an example of burial of a tower instead of the opposite (such as in Barbaresco where the 5-meter hill was excavated in order to widen it). The ancient tower-gate of the city dates back to the 12th-12th century, like the whole town that develops at the foot of the San Mauro hill, dominated by a castle whose walls closed the village between the Tanaro and the hill itself. Part of these walls is still visible, while few ruins remain of the ancient castellum.
The city gate of the city, the petticoat, was one of the two main ones, arranged on the axis of the main road, now via Roma. It introduced the village through a ramp that rose steeply from the moat to the fortified village. This conformation remained throughout the Middle Ages and the following centuries, until the 19th century, when in a general urban reorganization, the plan of Via Roma was raised, creating the square in front of the current church, which was turned and enlarged, reusing the ancient tower-door as its bell tower.
So the pointed arch entrance that constituted the door of Ormea for at least 5 centuries, is today in the underground spaces of the parish, clearly visible with the coat of arms of the Ceva-Garcilasco (lords of the place between ‘400 and’ 500) and with a stretch of the original cobblestones (also visible from the outside, at least 4 meters below).
The visit to the tower is very suggestive both because this is a completely original situation and because the remains of the late Gothic frescoes that decorated the apse of the previous medieval church remain on the walls of the church.
Ormea is called “the heart-shaped town” and deserves an unhurried visit to the beautiful old town. Do not miss the arrival with the historic train of the Ceva-Ormea tourist railway, a real blast from the past not to be missed when scheduled.
There are numerous hamlets, such as walks and hiking trails, including the famous balcony of Ormea.
On the border with Garessio there is also the Barchi tower, today not yet accessible but very suggestive. Heading south you will then find the hamlet of Ponte di Nava, the last outpost of Piedmont before the hill of the same name (with its nineteenth-century fortresses) and the descent through the verdant Val d’Arroscia down to Albenga and Imperia.