The High Monferrato
The zone is in the south of the province of Alessandria,
to the borders with Liguria and the province of Asti, to north the
Alessandria surrounding plain. The High Monferrato comprises three
distintctive geographic areas.Tthe center is
the Ovadese area, characterized by high hills, castles of medioeval
origins, vineyards of Dolcetto and Barbera and chestnut-plantation towards
The west is the Acquese area, well known since the Roman era for its
thermal spas and characterized from many vineyards of Moscato and
Brachetto and from the tradition of the cheese.
The east is the area of Novi and Gavi, a hilly land
yielded from the presence of famous confectionery handicraft and from the
vineyards of Gavi.
High Monferrato is crossed by railway lines to the North
Piedmont and Liguria areas and by roads which connect the two regions
. The main motorways are:
the Voltri-Sempione, with tollgates at
Ovada, Novi Ligure, Alessandria south and Serravalle Scrivia (Milan-Genoa).
The main state road access points are Alice Bel Colle (for those coming up
from Nizza Monferrato), Acqui Terme, Ovada and Novi (for those coming from
Alessandria), in Acqui Terme and Ovada (for those coming up from Genoa and
The main railway stations are Alessandria and Novi Ligure.
The vineyards and the landscape
Vineyards are present just about everywhere on the hills of the Monferrato
area. They vineyards are a fundamental part of the landscape, the history
and the customs of its inhabitants.
These vineyards produce prestigious grapes for excellent wines. Two of the
best white wines of the High Monferrato are Gavi docg and Cortese docg to
be tasted at lunch and dinner as an aperitif, followed by great red docg
wines such Dolcetto d'Acqui and Ovada, Freisa and Barbera, which are the
best complements to the rich and tasty dishes of our cuisine.
A glass of Moscato or Brachetto docg (a sweet sparkling, delicate wine) is
the perfect accompaniment for desserts. We can't overlook Dolcetto d'Acqui
doc, a deep ruby-red wine, the white Cortese of the High Monferrato, the
Moscato d'Acqui and the sparkling dessert wine Asti Spumante.
Welcome and gastronomy delicate flavour
An exceptional welcome awaits the gourmet tourist, with
countless accomodations. Beyond the restaurants more qualified which have
built a history and a custommade tradition, High Monferrato offers a wide
range of farm holiday facilities and inns located in a smiling and
protective countryside, that guarantees quality products and a warm
reception. High Monferrato's cuisine has been influenced by the
Ligurian and the Souther Region of Piedmont. Originating from the very
modest economic conditions that were endured through the centuries, the
High Monferrato's gastronomy has gradually become more elaborate, whilst
preserving all the natural local ingredients and components.
The truffle is one of the most appreciated products of the underground
found in this area. It is an underground fungus and grows in symbiosis
with certain trees, in particular oaks, willows, limes and poplars. Its
delicacy, colour and intensity of aroma depends on the plants it grows
under. The truffle search goes from September to January. It's at his best
eaten fresh or in simple hot dishes. Within this gastronomic setting the
role of bovine meat is clearly preminent: stock-rearing of the prized
Piedmont breed, here carried out on small family farms (almost all local
agricultural concerns are directly managed by the family that owns them),
produces exceptional meat, not only for cooking but above all for uncooked
meat dishes. A fair celebrating the Piedmont breed is held every
mid-August in Montechiaro d'Acqui. With no particular season, since they
are artisan products are the many dry products in the small cake shops (including
nutty torrone and 'amaretti'), as well as 'Robiola di Roccaverano', the
only DOP italian goat cheese.
CAPANNE DI MARCAROLO - Nature Park
The vast high plateau of Marcarolo lies in the mountainous area of the
Ligurian-Piedmontese Apennines, dominated by Mount Tobbio. The unique
nature of this area, due to its geographical position (on average only 10
kilometres inland from the Gulf of Genoa) explains its extremely variable
climate. The terrain is mainly covered with grass and shrubs, with
frequent outcrops of micro-peatbogs, which are particularly interesting to
study the adaptation of botanical species and the presence of plants left
behind by the last glaciation (Aster alpinus, Genista radiata). At the
northern edge of the park there visible traces of ancient chestnut
cultivations. The woods also include oak, beech, mountain ash, blackthorn,
buckthorn and following artificial forestry interventions, the cluster
pine. Human activity has left profound marks on the landscape over the
centuries: large areas were cleared to provide timber for the maritime
Republic of Genoa; others were used for grazing and crops. The Sacrario
dei martiri della Benedicta.
TORRENTE ORBA - Special Nature Reserve
The Reserve includes two distinct stretches of the river: the first
stretch was used for gravel extraction in the past, but has now been
completely renaturalised and is characterised by the presence of small
oxbow lakes with lush swamp vegetation and mature trees. The second
stretch, which is further downstream and lies between large embankments,
includes a high-water bed consisting of natural and farmed areas. The
vegetation is varied and diversified: shrubs, willows and poplars line the
river, whereas on the higher and drier areas, the arable land is
interspersed with small woods. Over a thousand years ago, the famous
"Selva d'Orba" grew along the river banks at this point.
This extensive complex underwent major deforestation over the centuries to
make room for the agricultural activities of the Cistercian monks and to
meet Genoa's demand for ship timber. The fauna is typical of the river
bank: among the mammals, it is worth noting the presence of foxes, badgers,
stone-marten, hare and wildboar from the foothills of the Apennines.
During the mating season, the woods attract hundreds of night herons and
Tree-creepers and the greater and lesser spotted woodpecker are also found.
The small sandy terraces of the high-water bed provide suitable nesting
grounds for bee-eaters and sand martins.
The High Monferrato, a land of hills and mountains on the border between
Piedmont and Liguria, has been marked by history and bears witness to it.
Now this territory is organising itself to initiate a pioneering
programme for high-level, selective tourism, aiming at the fascination of
the palate. It is a programme that sees institutions and economic
operators working together, as well as being a fine example of integration
between the various production sectors and the hospitality sector.
A model of cooperation and efficiency which, in 1999, saw the first fruits
of induced economy.
The same Mayors have become the main protagonists and enthusiastic
supporters of the initiative. The result was the support of 58
Municipalities and 2 Mountain Communities, which collectively remains
perhaps unparalleled in other areas. At this point various draft projects,
meetings and working parties followed. These led to the production of an
original design and a amalgamating process that is a vital patrimony at
this stage of the Wine Road management From the Road to the territory: the
Wine Road is the tool which, with the co-operation of the tourist service
operators, brings together producers and consumers establishing friendship.
The true objective is to vitalise, safeguard and develop our area, which
is already rich in values but a little less rich in fame. It is the first
modern Wine Road in Piedmont, devised and managed as a group business
interest, with commitments, controls, animation and a welcoming spirit.
This is the most intense wine growing area, with two major types of wine
produced, Moscato d'Asti and Brachetto d'Acqui, both of legally
determined and guaranteed origin. The itinerary is circular, passing
through Acqui, a spa town of Roman origin, where one can find a regional
wine cellar (Palazzo Robellini, in front of the Town Hall), specialising
in these wines. To the North stands the famous Sezzadio Abbey, whilst
the most intensive areas for vine cultivation are Alice Bel Colle and
Ricaldone: the historic centre of Cassine is exceptional. Strevi is a
municipality with a strongly committed to making wine and is famous for
a historical type of Muscatel wine.
Chees Itinerary 2
The cheese production area, especially that of the cottage cheese known
as Robiola di Roccaverano, is in the Acqui Mountain Community. Thus the
recommended itinerary, starting from Terzo d'Acqui, is to reach Spigno
and Merana after having gone through Bistagno, Ponti and Denice. It is a
valley bottom route but the circle can be closed by climbing up from
Spigno to Pareto and then (on a road of great panoramic beauty) to
Montechiaro d'Acqui, Castelletto d'Erro and finally Terzo. Important
wines are also produced in the area, especially Dolcetto d'Acqui. The
speciality is the sheep and goat milk cheese which is delicious even
after only limited seasoning.
Mushroom and chestnuts
This is a circular itinerary in hilly territory, starting and finishing
in Acqui Terme and passing through Visone, Grognardo, Morbello,
Cassinelle, Ponzone, Malvicino, Cartosio and Melazzo, with an internal
alternative to Cavatore. A slow itinerary on roads that rise and fall
over terraces housing the villages. The motorist needs therefore to
travel with care, paying attention not only to the landscape but also to
the narrowness of some of the lanes. It is recommended walks be taken
which allow the environment to be enjoyed to the full. A height of 700
metres can be reached in some points.
The area is rich in tasty food, mainly characterised by woodland
products and game but with a rarity: the sheep or goat milk cottage
cheese, fresh or seasoned.
Ovada is the focal point of the circular itinerary linking the villages
of Molare. Cremolino, Prasco (branching out to Visone for the Chestnuts
and Mushrooms itinerary), Morsasco, Trisobbio, Orsara Bormida (branching
out to Rivalta for the Aromatics itinerary), Montaldo Bormida. Carpeneto,
Roccagrimanda (branching out to Capriata in the Sweet Lands itinerary),
Tagliolo Monferrato and Belforte Monferrato, with branching out to Lerma
in the Villas itinerary.
One can find a castle in each Municipality, a winemaking research centre
at Carpeneto, cultural events in the historic centre of Roccagrimanlda,
"Histories of wine" and a wine-tasting competition in September at
Tagliolo. Prasco is preparing for the permanent exhibition of a famous
land management book the "Pomona Italiana".
A regional wine cellar will soon be active in Ovada, devoted to the
wines of the area, with special attention paid to the Dolcetto d'Ovada.
Eating facilities and farm holidays are excellent throughout the area.
This area is characterised by its ancient farmlands, now specialising in
the production of Gavi wine, of legally determined and guaranteed origin.
The main centre is Gavi and the Municipalities involved are Bosio,
Mornese, Casaleggio Boiro (extending towards Lerma to combine with the
Castles itinerary), Montaldeo, Castelletto d'Orba, Silvano d'Orba,
Capriata d'Orba, San Cristoforo, Parodi Ligure, Carrosio, Voltaggio and
Fraconalto. The landscape varies from the plain in the North, rising up
the hills in the centre and finally the high hill (800 metres) in the
South, where there is a natural park, the Capanne di Marcarolo. There is
an ancient grappa distilling tradition at Silvano d'Orba, while a wine
show is held at Castelletto d'Orba at the beginning of March
dedicated to the High Monferrato.
Sweet Lands Itinerary 6
The focal point is Novi Ligure, the centre of the industrial sweet
manufacturing district. The itinerary starts from the Novi motorway
tollbooth to Basaluzzo, Pasturana, Francavilla Bisio, Tassarolo, Gavi
and Serravalle Scrivia to return to Novi. The contact points with the
Villas itinerary are in Capriata d'Orba and Gavi. The most important
Gavi producers in this area are based at Lomellina, Rovereto and
Monterotondo. A feature of this area are the eating habits influenced by
the Genoa tradition. Novi is the town centre of greatest interest. A
fair called "The Sweet Lands of Novi" is held here in November.