Alessandria, Casale and the wars of the Great Marquis of Montferrat
A unique monumental masterpiece of military architecture in Europe, the hexagonal fortress of the Citadel, built on the left bank of the Tanaro, is the symbol of Alessandria. In the city founded in 1168 we are guided by the words of the Great Poet dedicated to William VII of Montferrat (Purgatory, VII), the powerful Great Marquis "for whom both Alexandria and her war make Montferràt and Canavèsë weep", who was finally captured by the Alexandrians and died in captivity in 1292. From the medieval period the urban fabric today preserves the Church of Santa Maria di Castello (with an elegant Gothic-Renaissance appearance) and the Cathedral dedicated to Saints Peter and Mark, with the statues of the patron saints of the 24 cities of the Lombard League, while the series of frescoes inspired by the exploits of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is among the oldest examples of the " Lanzaloti room " preserved in the Civic Museum (located with the Pinacoteca picture gallery in the complex of San Francesco).
The elegant baroque buildings around Piazza della Libertà such as Palazzo Ghilini (the current seat of the Prefecture and the Province), Palazzo Cuttica di Cassine, Palazzo Municipale (or "Palazzo Rosso" for the colour of its red facade) and Palazzo Sambuy, give an idea of the city's 18th century heritage, alongside modern constructions such as the full-facade mosaic of Palazzo delle Poste e Telegrafi, works by futurist Gino Severini. The ACdB Museum – Alessandria Città delle Biciclette tells the story of the pioneer city of Italian cycling, which a well-equipped bike-pedestrian network connects to its age-old rival, Casale Monferrato. The ancient capital of Monferrato, Casale is the birthplace of Ubertino (1259 - 1330) the preacher and theologian of the Franciscan Order that Dante blames in Heaven (XII) for the strict application of the monastic rule (Ubertino is also among the characters of the novel The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco). The Divine Comedy inspired the installation in the gardens of Piazza Martiri della Libertà: a lectern with a book, open on Dante's verses dedicated to Casale and Alessandria. The synagogue of Casale, founded in 1595 and one of the oldest in Piedmont, represents the centuries-old Jewish presence in the city. A refined Baroque building, it is accessible to visitors along with the adjoining Museo degli Argenti and Museo dei Lumi. From Casale, the exploration of the territory on two wheels can continue on the MTB trails between the plains and hills or on the routes along the River Po. There is the "green way" (about 40 kilometres to Alessandria), or the 60 km cycle route that leads to Chivasso for fitter cyclists. And with the right equipment, canoe and kayak enthusiasts can even navigate the Po as far as Pavia!
Through a succession of vineyards (from which fine DOCG wines such as Dolcetto, Barbera, Brachetto d'Acqui and Cortese di Gavi are born) and castles between Acqui and Ovada in Alto Monferrato, you reach the castle of Orsara Bormida, which belonged to the Marquises of Malaspina, celebrated by Dante in Purgatory (VIII) for the noble family's hospitality offered to him in the estates in Lunigiana at the time of his exile in 1306. The building of the fortified residence and farm (mentioned since 1196) stands out on the hill among the vineyards entirely replanted with Dolcetto d'Acqui, Brachetto DOCG, Barbera del Monferrato, Chardonnay and Moscato. Dante's memories of the Malaspina family also echo in Visone, a beautiful village dating back to before the year 1000, today renowned for the production of a delicious nougat. The medieval atmosphere can also be breathed in Strevi, City of Wine for its aromatic Moscato Passito DOC (Slow Food presidium), obtained since 1078 in the Bagnario Valley, today produced together with an equally inebriating Brachetto Passito Acqui DOCG. Suggested by exceptional insiders such as the Enoteca Regionale Acqui "Terme e Vino", the 6 routes on the Strada del Vino dell’Alto Monferrato (The High Monferrato Wine Road) can be covered on foot or by bicycle depending on the season: Strada dei Castelli (Castles), Strada degli Aromatici (Aromas) Strada delle Castagne (Chestnuts), or Strada dei Formaggi (Cheese), up to small villages brimming with charm, where you can contemplate the UNESCO hills from one of the 12 Giant Benches in a panoramic position.