Between Casale Monferrato and Asti, in Piedmont, in a secluded position with respect to the provincial road that connects the two centers, you can find Cella Monte, a nice hamlet in the Monferrato area declared a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2014.
Cella Monte is also an hour far from Turin and an hour far from Milan. So it could be a good idea to leave these big cities and take a stroll betwen vineyards and bucolic meadows. But is it worth a visit? Let’s find it out.
1. One of the most beautiful Italian hamlets
Just like Acerenza, Cella Monte has been included in the list of “I borghi più belli d’Italia”, an association that promotes small villages that can be considered relevant and interesting from a historical and artistic point of view. Forget the hustle of big cities, here time seems to have stopped to give space to a life marked by the rhythms of nature. This lovely village is perfect for a cycling ride, a walk among vineyards or even as the starting point to explore the Monferrato area, renowned for cheeses, cold cuts and wine.
2. A strategic position (and how to reach it)
If you have a car, take the A26 motorway in the direction of Asti and exit in Casale Sud. Continue on the provincial route n. 31 until you arrive in Cella Monte. By train you can take the regional train of the lines: Asti-Mortara, Chivasso-Casale Monferrato and Vercelli-Casale-Valenza. You can also choose the bus and check the line that brings to Casale-Rosignano-Rosignano – (Cella Monte)-Grazzano Badoglio and Moncalvo.
The position is also perfect to move to Langhe, another Unesco World Heritage, and visit Alba and its surroundings.
3. A land full of history
The whole Monferrato, and the territory of Cella Monte in particular, is characterized by the abundant presence of the so-called Pietra da Cantoni, a Miocene construction stone , formed by calcareous and marl marine layers that have been dated to the Burdigaliano-Langhiano era, from 20 to 14 million years ago. Of the stones formed during the Miocene, this Monferrato is recognized as one of the most valuable for erecting buildings, a record shared in Italy with the much more famous stone from Lecce.
The different types and quality of the Monferrato cantons are intimately linked to the depths of the sea and the typical distribution of sediments from the coast to the deeper sea: where the sea was relatively shallow, including the Cella Monte area, the sediments were richer in°calcium carbonate°and the cantons, which therefore take on a yellowish color, are consequently more resistant and valuable.’
4. You can visit the Infernot
The name Cella Monte probably derives from the so-called infernòt, cellars that in the past were dug into the sandstone in the area where the first houses were built. But another hypothesis attributes the name to the small monasteries (cells) built in these places.
The infernòt is a small underground chamber typical of Monferrato, dug into the Pietra da Cantoni without light and ventilation, generally reachable through a cellar. The constant temperature and humidity allow to store the bottled wine in perfect conditions. You can visit several Infernòt, such has the one of Cinque Quinti. When we went there during a bike ride, they were really kind and opened us their doors. We still haven’t tried their wines. So this is another good reason to return to Cella Monte.
5. And also other relevant buildings
In Cella Monte you can also visit the parish church of Santi Quirico and Giuditta, consecrated in 1633, Palazzo Volta, a parish house from the second half of the 17th century, today the seat of the Ecomuseo della Pietra da Cantoni, the Castle, transformed into a stately home by the Ardizzoni family in the 17th century, Palazzo Radicati, home of Pietro Secondo Radicati (1671-1729), bishop of Casale Monferrato, and the little church dedicated to San Quirico, protector of children.
6. Don’t forget to discover great Piedmontese wines…
Such as Barbera d’Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Grignolino, Freisa and Cortese. You will find wine shops and wine cellars, but also lovely restaurants with interesting labels to taste.
7. And the food, of course
Cold cuts and cheeses here are incredible. A particular type of cold cut is salame cotto, a variety of cocked salami (or what Americans call pePPPPPeroni). Truffles in all their varieties (raw, in oil, in risotto preparations) are also specific of these area as well as Agnolotti, a pasta envelope filled with meat.
The hazelnut, as in the entire Piedmont, here is the queen of the kitchen, especially in the precious variety called tonda gentile, round shaped and gentle. And in fact you can find a delicious hazelnut cake both to eat here and to bring home. So, you will continue your journey even when you have left the velvety hill where Cella Monte dozes relentlessly.