Alessandria and province itinerary – Truffles and woodland treasures

Truffle - Photo www.welcomepiemonte.it
Truffle – Photo www.welcomepiemonte.it

To reach Bistagno you go up the Valle Bormida di Spigno, rich with mushrooms and chestnut trees. From Spigno Monferrato, going over the watershed towards the Erro valley you come across the medieval retreat of Pareto: all over this area it is possible to purchase excellent mush-rooms and some varieties of medicinal herbs are cultivated. Continuing through woods rich in chestnut trees and mushrooms, you descend to Ponzone, with excellent gastronomic products, among which “filetto baciato” and fine mushrooms.

At Acqui Terme chestnuts and hazelnuts are mixed with chocolate, honey and almonds to produced the typical “amaretti”, Acquesi chocolates and nougat, to enjoy with bubbly Brachetto. In Autumn, Acqui also becomes the capital of mushrooms and truffles. Worth visiting are Bollente; Duomo; Basilica of San Pietro; Archaeology Museum. Continuing along the road among hills full of vineyards you head towards Ovada, the capital of Dolcetto, vested together with the truffle in October. Here worth seeing are the church of the Assunta; the oratories; Rocca Grimalda; the Mask Museum. You travel through one of the areas with the most villas and castles in the Monferrato territory.

Parco Naturale delle Capanne di Marcarolo: Education
Parco Naturale delle Capanne di Marcarolo: Education

This area produces Mostarda d’uva with the must of fine wines, hazelnuts, and autumnal fruit. Now you reach Capanne di Marcarolo Park, where you can still see the “abegui” which are constructions for drying chestnuts. At Voltaggio, it is possible to see the picture-gallery in the Capuchin convent. At Gavi, it is worthwhile tasting the “amaretti” and “Gavi canestrelli” and visiting the Fortress. Going through the hills with the Gavi vineyards you reach Novi Ligure, where the particular forest treasures of chestnuts and hazelnuts are blended with chocolate and nougat. As you walk among the cake shops you can also admire the painted palaces and the Maddalena oratory.

Worthy of a visit is the Museo dei Campionissimi. You then go up the Borbera valley where you find the Val Borbera chestnuts, a local variety on which the economy of the area has been based for many years. The museum of peasant culture at Carrega Ligure shows work implements and details of everyday life. Even though chestnuts and mushrooms are typical products of the valley, here also are produced œMela Carla della Val Borbera” apples, “Fagiolane” beans and “Quarantina” potatoes. You pass through Val Curone, among ancient mansions, towers, and castles, to reach Dernice.

At San Sebastiano Curone in mid-November, there is the regional Truffle Fair, one of the most important events for the precious tuber. This area produces also honey, cherries, among which the type Bella di Garbagna”, Mele della Val Curone apples and above all the famous “Pesche di Volpedo peaches. A more recent tradition, however, is the cultivation of medicinal herbs. Descending again among ancient parishes and estates, you reach Tortona where the Tonda Gentile hazelnut is worked to produce “Baci di Dama”.Here you can visit the Duomo, archaeological digs and the abbey of Rivalta. The plains of Alessandria are famous for the production of vegetables: onions. garlic, potatoes, and pumpkins. At Bosco Marengo, you can visit the convent complex of Santa Croce; at Piovera the castle and the open-air museum dedicated to modern fossils and at Marengo, you can see the Napoleonic villa.

Monferrato
Monferrato – Photo © Stefano Prigione

The province’s main town, Alessandria, is noted for the production of high-quality cakes and pastries and in November for the Fair of San Baudolino, which has the truffle as the main protagonist. Worth visiting is the church of Santa Maria di Castello and the cycle of frescoes Stanze di Artˆ. Nearby we can find Bergamasco, one of the main centers for truffle hunting in the province; Oviglio, with its castle; Quargnento, with the basilica of San Dalmazzo; Valenza, with numerous goldsmiths; Altavilla Monferrato, with the Grappa Museum and the Tramways Museum; Vignale Monferrato, with Callori Palace, location of the regional wine cellars. In July there is the international festival of Vignaledanza.

You carry on to Casale Monferrato, which is famous worldwide for hand-made production of “Krumiri”, biscuits, with their traditional handle-bar form. Here you can visit the Duomo, Synagogue, Castello dei Paleologi, Bistolfi Gallery of Casts. You then head on for the Casale Monferrato area where excellent truffles are found in nearly all the villages, particularly at Cella Monte, Odalengo Piccolo, Serralunga di Crea, and Murisengo. Each of these villages celebrates the truffle with a fair, particularly at Murisengo, with the regional fair œTrifola d’Or. In this area it is worth visiting the nature park and Sacro Monte di Crea; the castles of Camino, Gabiano, San Giorgio and Cereseto; the castle and parish church of Murisengo; the villa-castle Belvedere di Villadeati. From Serralunga di Crea you proceed for Moncalvo.

Where to stay in Alessandria

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