Here in Monferrato history, architecture and crafts coexist in a unique landscape, all to be discovered. An extraordinary land twice enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage with the Monferrato of the Infernots - which is part of the Vineyard Landscape of Piemote: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato - and the Holy Mount of Crea - one of the Holy Mounts in Piemonte and Lombardia.
In Monferrato hills, plain and the area of the Po river coexist among vineyards and rice fields in a successful abd balanced synthesis, offering high quality and varied typical products such as the precious white truffles (celebrated in numerous national and regional truffle fairs such as Moncalvo, Murisengo and Cella Monte, from mid-October to the end of November), the excellent wines - Grignolino and Barbera above all (the Wine Festival held in Casale Monferrato in September is one of the main event in Autumn), the best varieties of rice, the Muletta typical salami, and the famous Krumiri biscuits.
Casale Monferrato, the capital of the area since 1434, is a town rich in sights: the Synagogue and Jewish Museams that are unique in Europe, the Romanesque Cathedral with its splendid Narthex, the complex of Santa Croce with the Civic Museum and the Collection of Plaster Casts by the symbolist sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi, the imposing Monferrato Castle that hosts events and where you can find the Tourist Information Office (tel. +39 0142 444 330, firstname.lastname@example.org). Do not miss the event Casale Città Aperta on the second Sunday of each month (and the day before) with the chance to visit sights that are usually closed; on the same Sunday, in addition, the Antique Marquet takes place.
In the surroundings of the town there are villages with their folklore events, art treasures, churches and castles, little museums and the typical Infernots - wine cellars carved in the sandstone).
CASALE MONFERRATO, the ancient capital of the area
Casale Monferrato is the ancient capital of the Monferrato Marquisate and one of the most interesting art cities in Piedmont. The town stands on the right bank of the Po river and the historic center predominantly presents 18th century aspects. A fortified military town of primary importance, that was for several centuries at the center of the troubled political events that marked the history of the Monferrato Marquisate history, of which Casale was the capital in the 15th century. Walking in the historic center, that presents the features from its ancient past, is the best way to experience its many treasures: interesting museums and sights, elegant buildings, majestic churches and porticoes.
The imposing, recently restored Monferrato Castle dating from mid -14 th century is located in the middle of the main square.
TheCathedral with its splendid Narthex and Romanesque crucifix, as well as an extremely modern Centenary Baptistery, the work of the scupltor Lodigiani.
The baroque Synagogue and Jewish museum with its wealth of handcrafted religious artefacts and a “Light Museum” with a magnificent display of Hannukia lamps, the work of major contemporary artists such as Arman, Mondino, Recalcati, Luzzatti etc.
The former Augustinian Convent of Santa Croce ( 14 th- 19 th Centuries), whose cloister is decorated with frescoes by G. Caccia, currently hosts the Civic Museum which houses a rich heritage of works linked with the town's history. Indeed, on the first floor there are paintings, sculptures and ceramics (from the 12th to 20th century) belonging to the civic collections. In the five rooms on the ground floor is the Gipsoteca (Gallery of plaster casts) of the simbolist sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi (1858-1933). Currently, it also hosts the permanent exhibition dedicated to "Carlo Vidua".
Among churches: the church of San Domenico and its adjoining cloister, with valuable works by Guala; the church of SantaCaterina of the Domenican nubs, built by Giacomo Zanetti following a project by Giovanni Battista Scapitta (1653-1715), consecrated in 1726.
A view from the Castle (Ph. credit ATL Alexala)
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITES
-> The Monferrato of the Infernot
The area is characterised by the presence of the Infernot, underground rooms carved by hand in a typical kind of stone called "Pietra da Cantoni". They were and are still used to store bottles of wine. The Monferrato of the Infernot has been part of the Unesco site "The Vineyard landscape of Piemonte: Langhe-Roero and Monferrato" since 2014. The nine municipalities in the core zone are: Camagna Monferrato, Cella Monte (where the Ecomuseum of the Pietra da Cantoni is located), Frassinello Monferrato, Olivola, Ottiglio, Ozzano Monferrato, Rosignano Monferrato, Sala Monferrato e Vignale Monferrato.
For more information: Paesaggi Vitivinicoli del Piemonte (text and video subtitles available in English).
An example of Infernot (Ph. credit Ecomuseo della Pietra da Cantoni)
-> The Sacred Mount of Crea
The Sacred Mount of Crea is located on one of the highest hills in the Monferrato area (altitude 443mt a.s.l.), from where you may enjoy of a breathtaking panorama. The construction works started in 1589 with the enlargement of the pre-existing Marian sanctuary. The mount is a special reserve. The church safeguards valuable paintings and frescos. The Sacro Monte is made up of 23 chapels and 5 hermitages, immersed in a park that is of great botanical interest. For more information: Sacred Mount of Crea.
The main square at the Sacred Mount of Crea
THE MONFERRATO AREA NOT FAR FROM CASALE MONFERRATO
A few kilometres from Casale Monferrato is Terruggia,a Roman settlement that belonged to various noble Piedmontes families. Carlo Pred's magnificent painting of the Madonna with Saint John the Baptist and Saint Gratus dominates the oratory of San Grato.
On the main road to Asti is San Giorgio Monferrato, dominated by the spectacular castle; from its terrace you may enjoy one of the most picturesque panoramas of the area.
Continuing, you reach Ozzano Monferrato once of the domains of the Aleramo family and the Paleologo dynasty. The castle resembles a noble villa, and the parish church of San Salvatore has a Renaissance portal, while the interior boasts 16 th century capitals.
In Treville, perched on one of the highest peaks in the Casale Monferrato area, the parish church dedicated to Sant'Ambrogio is one of the Monferrato area's archetypes of baroque architecture. A walk through the vineyards up to the old parish church of San Quirico is a must - a finely constructed Romanesque building, a destination for pilgrims along the Via Francigena route.
Finally, in Sala Monferrato, a walk up the hill of San Francesco which dominates the town and offers a splendid view overlooking the Monferrato area. Important works by Caccia and Alberini may be admired in th church of San Giacomo.
The village of Ozzano Monferrato
THE VALLE GHENZA AREA
Here we are in the heart of the Monferrato area. Leaving Casale behind, you may travel along the picturesque Mandoletta road towards Rosignano Monferrato, nestled on top of a hill covered in woods and vineyards, steeped in history. In the historical centre and numerous nearby hamlets of the "Casale sentinel" (as it was called in the 17 th century), there are many churches, castles, manor houses and a number of belvederes that are well worth a visit.
Located on a hill opposite Rosignano Monferrato is Cella Monte, the center of the "Pietra da Cantoni" stone and music. Be sure to take a stroll through the streets to discover flower-filled courts. Palazzo Volta, with its double Renaissance loggia, houses the Pietra da Cantoni Ecomuseum with its Infernot. Gianni Colonna, a pupil of Felice Casorati, lives and works in the district of Coppi.
Continuing along the main road, a turn off to the right leads to Moleto, hamlet of Ottiglio, a very attractive Saracen village. Moreover the village Moleto is distinguished by the presence of several patrician houses built using the Pietra da Cantoni local stone.
Don't miss a visit to the nearby village of Olivola, made entirely of "cantone" a visit to the old Romanesque parish church of San Pietro is not to be missed from the churchyard you can enjoy one of the most brathtaking view over the Monferrato hills.
Lastly, Frassinello Monferrato is worth a visit for its two castles, Sacchi Nemours and Lignano, and for the chapel of San Bernardo by Guala.
The Ecomuseum in Cella Monte
THE VIGNALE MONFERRATO AREA
By its very name, this can be considered the heart of the vineyards. Approaching from Casale Monferrato through Roncaglia, the first interesting towns you encounter, all reached by left, are Camagna Monferrato, the ancient possession of the Canons of Tours, with the imposing dome of the St. Eusebio parish church, and Conzano Monferrato, a village now considered to be an artistic centre, due to the frequent exhibitions at Villa Vidua, where prestigiuos artists have displayed their work.
Further on you will arrive in Vignale Monferrato, a town dedicated to dancing. A hilltop village surrounded by vigneyards, its streets are lined with buildings and monuments that have made Monferrato history.
In Cuccaro Monferro, the curches of Maria Assunta and Madonna della Neve are of particular interest. The interior road that connects the town to Lu should missed: it offers one of the most beautiful scenic views of the area.
Continue towards Fubine Monferrato, with its parish church of the Assumption, the castle and the Neo-Gothic chapel with a magnificent work by Bistolfi. In Quargnento, on the panoramic Ronco road towards Villa Cuttica, is the church of San Dalmazio and the house of the artist Carlo Carrà, where ypu may complete your visit an interesting stroll through the streets and places where he grew up.
The village of Camagna Monferrato
THE VALCERRINA AREA
The westernmoast part of the area. Has the steepest hills and wildest woods. Coming from Turin, you enter the area from Murisengo, steeped in history, with its ancient castle and 18th century churches, famous for the annual Nation Truffle Fair.
In the neighbourhood is Villamiroglio, a village founded in 1164; to be visited is the 16 th century parish church dedicated to San Filippo.
A few kilometrs away is Cerrina, with the gothic "Casaforte" and the castle of Montalero; the Longobard and Carolingian Mombello Monferrato; in the historical centre, the Casa Tornielli and the churches of San Pietro Apostolo, and San Sebastiano are noteworthy, as is the sanctuary of San Gottardo in Pozzengo. And yet again, Sologhello, on a hillock around the remains of a stately 12 th century.
Nearby is Gabiano: its castle, which dates back to the early 13th century, where you may enjoy wonderful view. In the hamlet of Cantavenna, Rubino, one of the rarest and most exclusive of DOC wines (Controlled Designation of Origin) is produced. Following the road to Camino you may admire one of the most beautiful and ancient castles in the area, with a tower dating back to the year 1000. At Moncestino, the castle on the Po, the parish church and votive chapel of St. Sebastiano and S. Rocco.
The village of Mombello Monferrato (ph. credit ATL Alexala)
THE AREAS AROUND THE SACRED MOUNT OF CREA AND MONCALVO
Southward, in the villages of Madonnina di Serralunga di Crea, you must absolutely climb to the top of the Sacred Mont of Crea (altitude 443 mt a.s.l.), the Regional Natural Park in included in Unesco's World Heritage list. It enyoys of a breathtaking panorama and is the centre of the Monferrato religion. The Sanctuary safeguards paintings anf frescos by artists of great relevance.
Serralunga di Crea - worth mentioning is the home that housed Cesare Pavese and castle in Forneglio hamlet. And again, the castles in Ponzano Monferrato and Salabue, where is the 18 th century Villa Larbel.
Further on towarrs Asti you encounter the Aleramo town of Moncalvo with the ruins of the ancient castle, under the ramparts of wich people still play at "elastic ball" (balun) or tambuerello (tambas).
Not far away, towards the inland on a hilly terrain, lies Alfiano Natta, in a panoramic position.
The Sacred Mount of Crea (ph. credit ATL Alexala)
THE PO RIVER PLAIN AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
Travelling from Casale to Valenza, in the Po River Park area, in a mostly flat area, are the villages with typical characteristics of the local plain: Borgo San Martino, the hometown of the poet Ravasenga; Pomaro Monferrato with its imposing castle; Madonna dell'Argine in Bozzole; the splendid town hall square in Frassineto Po, the churches of Sant'Ambrogio and the Madonna degli Angeli; Baldesco castle in Mirabello Monferrato; the parish church of San Valerio in Occimiano; the ancient Sannazzaro castle in Giarole; Pecetto of Roman origin; San Salvatore Monferrato situated on the top of the hills;
Travelling from Casale to Turin, in the Po River Park area, there are other typical villages. Fontanetto Po, an agricultural centre among the rice-fields where you can visit the mill of San Giovanni, an impressive example of agricultural archeology. Morano Po with the beautiful Pobietta grange, an ancient community of rice-weeders: here an interesting photographic exhibition of the community and some 19th century agricultural machinery can be found. Pontestura, situated between the plains and the hills, with the museum-warehouse of the artist Colombotto Rosso. Coniolo which enjoys a scenic view over the plain and the rice-fields of the area. The church of San Michele is worth a visit for its four large paintings depicted Pier Francesco Guala. Villanova Monferrato with the church of Sant'Emiliano and the Madonna by Guala, which is kept in the Town Hall.