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.
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.
Tthe center is the Ovadese area, characterized by high hills, castles of medioeval origins, vineyards of Dolcetto and Barbera and chestnut-plantation towards the mountains..
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 Savona).
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.

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 little egrets.
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 Itineraries
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.

Aromatic Itinerary 1
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 Itinerary 3
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.

Castles Itinerary 4
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.

Villas Itinerary 5
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.

Gavi International --- Site of Gavi in English---Sito di Gavi in inglese---