Follow me in this guide to visit Casale Monferrato at its best and discover all the ancient flavours of this Piedmontese town!
The city of Casale Monferrato is located, as its name suggests, in Monferrato, a hilly region including the provinces of Alessandria and Asti. Here its inhabitants (the “Casalesi”) can admire every day the majesty of the river Po (the longest Italian river), which cuts the town in two.
This land, with its centuries-old flavours and traditions, has been included, together with the Langhe and Roero, in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In fact, it is world-famous for being one of Italy’s major wine regions, known for its red wines and sparkling wines.
In addition to this important recognition, the city is also known for being the capital of the DOC, or rather, its birthplace: it was here that, in 1963, all the legislative proposals aimed at protecting typical wines (later called Denominazione d’Origine Controllata) began.
Finally, this land is also rich in several De.Co, the Denominazioni Comunali (municipal denominations), including the famous Krumiri biscuits, Agnolotti pasta and giardiniera (chopped vegetables boiled in water and vinegar). What do you say, have these facts intrigued you enough?
So follow me in this guide on what to see in Casale Monferrato. We will explore the beauty and charm of its historic centre, full of palaces, covered walkways and shops, and visit the wonderful surrounding landscapes of vineyards, woods and castles.
And now let’s set off on this itinerary, starting with the beauties of the historic centre, to discover Casale Monferrato and its surroundings, trying to make the best of it and guarantee an excellent visit even for those who have little time and want to organise a day trip.
Continuing on, I will also tell you how to extend your stay and discover this splendid territory, getting to know the neighbouring localities and with some advice on what to do.
Follow me because there is something to do for everyone, from those who love art and culture, to those seeking nature and relaxation; but, above all, for those who want to taste everything about this land and its exceptional food and wine.
What to see in Casale Monferrato
[ back to menu ]
First of all, I want to give you some advice on when it is best to visit this land. The city is constantly animated by festivals and popular celebrations which glorify its typical products, but definitely try to make it for the second weekend of the month; because, thanks to the “Casale Città Aperta” initiative, you can visit all the attractions for free and book exclusive guided tours.
The best car park is undoubtedly the one located in Piazza del Castello, which is very large but charges a fee. From here, you can start your tour entirely on foot, visiting the Paleologi castle first. Alternatively, the Parkhaus multi-storey car park is also nearby.
1. Piazza Castello with the Paleologi Castle
Erected by John II Palaeologus towards the end of the Middle Ages, the Castle, which gives its name to the square below, has been enlarged and fortified several times, following the various political changes that have taken place in the area.
Today, it has become a symbol of Casale’s cultural life as its square is home to the market and the “Paolo Desana” DOC centre and the Monferrato regional wine shop are located inside it. The former is dedicated to the history of the father of all DOC wines and carries out research and documentation on the civilisation and culture of wine, the material and intangible heritage of the Monferrato territory. The second, on the other hand, moves from words to deeds, selling the best local delicacies directly to the public: from wines at cellar prices, here you can also find sweets, cheeses, preserves and jams.
2. Municipal Theatre
Also on Piazza Castello there is the Municipal Theatre, a historic 18th-century building brought to light by a recent restoration. Its four tiers of balconies and loggias and its decorations, in gold, velvet and stucco, make it an unmissable jewel on your visit. The municipal theatre is open for visits during the “Casale Città Aperta” initiative.
3. St. Stephen’s Civic Tower
Proceeding along Via Aurelio Saffi, you will reach Piazza Santo Stefano, home to the namesake Church and the iconic 60-metre high Civic Tower. The tower, erected in the 11th century, has been restored and embellished several times; as in the case of the intervention in 1500, which added the clock to it. Today it is possible to reach the top for free, from which you can perfectly admire Casale Monferrato and its surroundings, on the second Sunday of the month.
4. Piazza Mazzini with the statue of King Carlo Alberto
Once down from the civic tower, you can go to Piazza Mazzini, located right behind it. Four of the city’s most important streets branch off from here, making it one of Casale’s most vital centres. In the centre of the square there is the statue of King Carlo Alberto, erected to thank him for the construction of the first bridge over the Po. Since the statue depicts the sovereign while on horseback, the square is also known among the people of Casale as “Piazza del Cavallo” (horse square).
5. Cathedral of Sant’Evasio
Proceeding along the Via del Duomo, you will arrive right in front of the façade of the Cathedral of Sant’Evasio. This is one of its most distinguishing features: it is, in fact, asymmetrical, due to restoration work carried out in the 1800s. Of Romanesque construction, it is one of the oldest monuments in the whole province of Alessandria and inside you can admire no less than five naves, all painted in shades of blue and whose vaults resemble a starry sky. It can be visited free of charge.
6. Cathedral Museum
Open to the public with free admission, the cathedral’s treasure museum is located inside the cathedral itself and houses in its collection various examples of silverware, gold jewellery and local handicrafts. There is also an exhibition dedicated to the ancient floor mosaics. In addition, it is possible to visit the attic on the second Sunday of each month by appointment and at an additional cost of €5.
7. Bishop’s Seminary Library
In the area behind the cathedral, in Piazza Nazari di Calabiana, you can find the historic bishop’s library, opened in 1838. Among its wooden bookcases are preserved some incunabula and rare volumes. The visit is free and unmissable for all book lovers!
8. Gozzani Palace in Treville
Walking along Via Goffredo Mameli, you will reach Palazzo Gozzani Treville, the seat of the Philharmonic Academy. This building is a wonderful example of an 18th-century noble residence and now houses numerous frescoes, both outside and inside. It can be visited in its entirety on certain days when it is open to the public, thanks to the regional initiative “Viaggio nei Castelli Aperti e Dimore Storiche piemontesi” (Journey through Piedmont’s Open Castles and Historic Houses).
9. Bistolfi Civic Museum with Picture Gallery and Plaster Collection
Via Camillo Benso di Cavour is home to the Civic Museum, established in 1910 and housed in the former 13th-century convent of Santa Croce. It is possible to visit the Pinacoteca (picture gallery), created over the years thanks to donations and acquisitions and which now has 18 rooms, and the Gipsoteca (plaster casts gallery) dedicated to the work of the sculptor Leonardo Bistolfi.
Throughout the museum there are QR codes that will allow you to listen to the audio guide to the visit directly on your phone. The ticket price is €5.50, but the visit is free during the “Casale Città Aperta” initiative and does not require reservations.
10. Casale Monferrato Synagogue and Jewish museums
In Casale Monferrato, you cannot miss the 16th-century Synagogue located within the old Jewish quarter. From the outside, you will find it hard to believe that this is a point of interest, as its façade blends in very much with the surrounding buildings: this is because the Albertine statute (Italian former constitution) forbade Jews to decorate the temple with particular religious signs. Once inside, however, you will understand the reason for the visit. You will be able to admire an extensive series of stucco and gold decorations in full Baroque style.
You will also be able to visit the Silver Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of Jewish art and historical relics in Europe, and the Museum of Enlightenment, located in the old ovens below the synagogue, used for baking unleavened bread. Visits require a reservation.
11. St. Catherine’s Church
The Church of St Catherine is located on the corner of Via Trevigi and Piazza Castello, right at the starting point of our tour. It is dedicated to the Dominican nuns and was built during the 1700s. It is topped by a beautiful frescoed dome and still retains its Baroque beauty. The convent, on the other hand, has been modified several times, also becoming a school and a hospital. It can be visited free of charge every Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and during “Città aperta”.
12. Pastrona Park
Once you have finished visiting Casale Monferrato centre, you can move slightly to the outskirts and reach Pastrona Park, about 2 km from Piazza Castello. This large green area, located on the right bank of the Po, is nothing more than a huge green spot outside the city and is therefore also called “urban forest” by the people of Casale. It offers several nature trails, to be travelled on foot or by bicycle, and several equipped areas where you can relax or enjoy a picnic.
Having completed the list of what to see in Casale Monferrato, I now want to tell you how you can extend your visit; turning your out-of-town excursion into a weekend or a real holiday, exploring Casale Monferrato and its surroundings.
Visiting Casale Monferrato and its surroundings
[ back to menu ]
To begin with, I recommend a visit to the nearby village of Cella Monte, located in the heart of the Monferrato wine landscapes. Here, you can admire the beauty and colours of the view, especially by visiting the coloured pencil vineyard, a must for your photos! Not far away are Ottiglio, known for its limestone houses and legends about Saracen caves, and Terruggia, awarded the Orange Flag by the Italian Touring Club.
Then, you can visit Moncalvo d’Asti, the “smallest city in Italy” and the nearby Sacro Monte di Crea Reserve, 7 km from the centre. Here you will have the opportunity to walk along one of the most evocative religious itineraries in Italy. Just think that this route, built in the 17th century, is today listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Wandering through the upper Monferrato, you will reach the small village of Vignale Monferrato and the provincial city of Alessandria; continue on to Nizza Monferrato and the discovery of its wine: Barbera. Nearby, in Castelnuovo Calcea you will also find the Art Park La Court, an installation of international works of art placed directly in a vineyard.
You should also make a stop in Canelli, the wine capital of the Asti region and even celebrated by Cesare Pavese (1900s Italian writer) for its food and wine activities. Then, take the opportunity to taste Dolcetto d’Ovada DOC and Cortese di Gavi DOCG directly in their places of origin. And finally, enjoy some well-deserved relaxation at the historic springs of Acqui Terme.
What to do in Casale Monferrato?
[ back to menu ]
Casale Monferrato is not just to be seen. There are many activities that will allow you to enrich your experience in this evocative land: here are some suggestions.
To begin with, you cannot return home without first visiting one of the many Infernot, a type of cellar dug by hand into the Cantoni stone and used for centuries for storing wine. These typical wine cellars are one of the features that allowed Monferrato to be classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I also recommend visiting the town at night: the Civic Tower, illuminated in various colours, is the true emblem of the local evenings. You can also find many fashionable activities a little bit “outside the box”, such as wine painting, suitable for entertaining even non-drinkers.
Monferrato is full of scenic routes where you can take incredible photos. First and foremost are the big benches, an outsized installation of benches aimed at supporting rural development and encouraging the rediscovery of the landscape: have fun finding them all.
In addition, for those who love nature and walking, there are several routes surrounded by greenery; such as: the Pastrona forest ring, the route between Casale and the Castle of San Giorgio, and the cement road, surrounded by various relics of industrial archaeology.
But above all, enjoy an excellent aperitif with local wines and taste some of the excellent traditional foods yourself.
Local food & wine
Some must-tries – or rather must-drinks – of your visit are definitely: Grignolino del Monferrato Casalese, Barbera Monferrato and Monferrato Dolcetto; all three belonging to the DOC.
So as not to drink on an empty stomach, I recommend you try the Agnolotti di Casale, a special format of stuffed pasta recognised as Denominazione Comunale and produced exclusively by the “La Torre” restaurant. Other typical dishes include:
- bagna cauda, a sauce made with salted anchovies and garlic, served hot inside special containers called “Tupin” and used to accompany boiled vegetables and more;
- the Tirà ad Mirabé De.Co, a simple focaccia stuffed with raisins;
- the truffle, present in the Monferrato area both in the black variety and the much rarer white one;
- the bunet, a kind of pudding made with amaretti biscuits;
- the Krumiri, biscuits created to honour the death of King Victor Emmanuel II and, in fact, their shape is reminiscent of the sovereign’s moustache.
Finally, don’t forget that you are in Piedmont and therefore you have to try some traditional dishes of the region’s cuisine, such as fritto misto alla piemontese (fired offal), bollito con il tris di bagnetti (boiled meats with 3 different dipping sauces) and the ever-present knife-beaten raw meat.
Trust us, after tasting these specialities you will want to know all about them and therefore we suggest you to participate in a tasting experience, about wine or other typical specialities, or learn how to recreate these recipes by taking a cooking class!
[ back to menu ]
Last but not least, here is a list of events not to be missed in Casale Monferrato:
- the wine festival, celebrated in September inside Palazzo Paleologi
- Il paniere, an organic market of food and wine products that takes place on the third Saturday of each month in Piazza Mazzini
- the regional exhibition of San Giuseppe, a trade fair held in March that hosts a variety of producers from the local food and wine scene.
Now that you know what to see in Casale Monferrato, what are you waiting for? Book your next food and wine holiday in Piedmont with Italia Delight, the online platform that allows you to create the trip that suits you best! 😎
Cover photo: pixabay, alefolsom
Featured photo: roby-allario-unsplash