Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Moncalvo, the tiniest town

Our Monferrato tour this time brought us to the "Town of Moncalvo". Yes, tiny Moncalvo in the Monferrato wine district - roughly 3000 inhabitants - is officially a town since 1705. Who knew??!

Moncalvo main piazza isn't fully horizontal 

Conveniently located at about 1 hour driving from Turin and the Milan Malpensa airport, Moncalvo is surrounded by many wineries and interesting farms of any kind: slow food, natural, vegetable, animal, you name it, really. 
Once the capital of the Monferrato area and the most important financial center of Italy - before the Medici's Florence; today this tiny town is one the food capitals of Italy thanks to its participation to the Asti palio - the oldest palio in Italy and the truffle fair.

white and black truffles at La Bella Rosin restaurant in Moncalvo
Moncalvo is also the nickname of Guglielmo Caccia, a very famous mannerist painter, also known as the Monferrato Raphael, who spent most of his life there! You can admire his works at the Conventuali church.
One of of his daughters, Orsola Maddalena Caccia followed his footsteps and became one of the very few women painters in the Baroque Italy of the 17th century. Together with Botticelli's, some of her works were exhibited at the National Museum of Women in Arts in Washington DC, in 2015!

Still Life with Flowers, Fruit, Mushroom, Goldfinch and Hoopoe by Orsola Caccia
Art-wise, this town is little gem of palazzos, buildings, churches and works from the 10th century Romanesque to the 17th century Baroque period.
Just like nearby Casale Monferrato, up to 1939, Moncalvo had also an important Jewish community. In fact, the once active synagogue was right in the central piazza, while the most important church was moved to a side area.

Lots of festivals and cultural events takes place in Moncalvo all year long making it a well off the beaten track perfect Italian destination where visitors can fully live their Italian experience. Some  events are:
  • the market takes place every Thursday morning and it is the largest in the Asti area 
  • every first Sunday of each month there is a vintage market where you can find antiques and family treaures 
  • on the 3rd Sunday of June you can taste the traditional Monferrato specialties at the Sagra (festival)
  • a jazz festival in July in Piazza Carlo Alberto  - section OFF of twin Montreaux Jazz Festival
  • the Moncalvo truffle fair is on the last 2 Sundays of October
  • many classical music concerts all year long  

First and foremost, Moncalvo is a synonym of vineyard covered hills, gourmand restaurants, white truffles, hazelnut groves and chocolate!! Nobody really can resist to it, even the very first king of Italy, King Victor Emmanuel II's favorite mistress - la bella Rosin was a native of Moncalvo!

So it doesn't come as a surprise that the best restaurant in town is La Bella Rosin :D
This where we had lunch with our friend winemaker Stefano and his daddy! 

La Bella Rosin has a nice cellar full of bottles: small production, local labels as well important imported wines.
Their menu offers many local specialties like truffles, handmade tajarin and plin ravioli, fassone steaks and chocolate bunet pudding, as well as salads and fish.
Choosing what to have is quite hard because even their bread and grissini breadsticks are delish!

More Cascina Rosa pictures here

Naturally, the best place to stay at while in the Moncalvo area is at our friend Luca's Cascina Rosa. At the entrance of this family owned b & b there is a sign warning about one its peculiarities: this is a stress free zone!! Believe it or not, as you walk past its gate, you immediately feel lighter and happier, miles away from your everyday problems.
Needless to tell you that Cascina Rosa is a pink farm located right on the top of one of the hightes hills in the area. Just like a children's picture book and a Disney movie, it has a one of a kind view on the vineyards and the Moncalvo castle! Because it is also surrounded by farms, it's normal to hear cow bells, goats chatting and sheep herds singing :D 

Just picture yourselves looking at the stars in the summer and sipping wine in the spring and the fall sitting here! This is literally a b&b with a view, and all its rooms do have a view of this breathtaking panorama!
The rooms are very comfortable and decorated with a mix of country style and contemporary furniture; guests can use the kitchen if they wish to, so they can eat what they bought at the market and during their visits and tastings. Cascina Rosa also has a swimming-pool and the breakfasts have a large selection of sweet, savory and fruit specialties.

Photo courtesy of www.cascinarosa33.it 
Finally, Luca and Stefano can easily arrange a wine tasting in Cascina Rosa's garden, showing you how to best pair Poderi Girola's Grignolino, Barbera and Chardonnays (yes, two types) grown in the vineyards located right below this magic bed & breakfast!

Foodies and wine lovers of the world, antique collectors, art lovers and experiential travelers: Moncalvo just can't be missing from your itineraries.
Contact Luca and his mom at Cascina Rosa: info@cascinarosa33.it to reserve your room in such an authentic and uncontaminated place. You won't regret it!


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