Casale Monferrato - Palazzo Anna d'Alencon
The Province of Alessandria lies in the extreme southeast of Piedmont that has for long been of strategic importance for its connections with Lombardy and Liguria.
The topography consists mainly of hills and valleys traversed by rivers, while the south is dominated by the Ligurian Apennine Mountains.
A multiplicity of landscapes can be discovered in this land: the Monferrato hills, covered by vines and rich in color, uncontaminated nature, and dense woods of chestnut, oak and beech.
Many reserves safeguard the province's varied environment: the Parco Fluviale del Po Tratto Vercellese-Alessandrino, home to many colonies of birds; the Torrente Orba Natural Reserve; and the Capanne di Marcarolo Natural Park, where the Alpine flora flourishes alongside the Mediterranean scrub.
The area is also a natural location for wine production and boasts an important cultural heritage, from Roman remains to the imposing ruins of castles dotted about the countryside.
Ovada, Acqui Terme, Casale Monferrato and Gavi are towns rich in history and art, with monuments from many different epochs.
Many other treasures make any visit here special and nique: from the Acqui Terme spa to the goldsmiths of Valenza, now internationally-renowned. Finally, the Campionissimi of Novi Ligure Museum is dedicated to cycling, and was established in memory of two local athletes, Fausto Coppi and Costante Girardengo.
The starting point of any tour should be Alessandria, the Provincial Capital rich in artistic heritage, including the famous Cittadella with its ample piazzas and 18th-Century palaces.
There are many religious sites of remarkable artistic value, such as Sacro Monte di Crea, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site; the Santa Croce complex in Bosco Marengo; the Romanesque Abbey of Santa Giustina in Sezzadio; and many churches and shrines all around the countryside, e.g. the evocative Parish Church of Santa Maria in Viguzzolo.
Roman relics can be found in Libarna, near Serravalle Scrivia, and in Acqui Terme, a town renowned for ages for its art and health spa.
One of the most important sites is Casale Monferrato, boasting prestigious architecture and churches, particularly the Duomo, one of the most remarkable Romanesque-Lombard cathedrals of Piedmont.
Be sure to visit the hills, and their vineyards and imposing castles (Vignale Monferrato and Camino).
Valenza, a small town built on the banks of Po River, is famous for its gold and jewelry production. Gavi, a small town slocated on the border between Liguria and the Pianura Padana, is dominated by an imposing castle that once was the fortress of the Republic of Genoa. The Roman remains and artistic monuments of Tortona offer an interesting journey into the past, while Ovada is surrounded by remarkable castles.
The Marengo Museum is dedicated to an historical Napoleonic battle (it lies in Spinetta Marengo, a district of Alessandria).
Sports lovers, rather, should visit the Campionissimi Museum in Novi Ligure, dedicated to Costante Girardengo and Fausto Coppi, two local cycling champions.
The Province of Alessandria provides many an opportunity for both active and relaxing vacations in the unadulterated countryside.
From Monferrato to Ovada, hiking, biking and riding trails abound amidst lush vegetation and charming hamlets.
Trails for cycle tourists wind through the Po River Park, Vercellese-Alessandrino Tract, and climbing enthusiasts will enjoy the Falesia di Gavi, a wall that invites climbers of varying levels to practice their sport in this magnificent landscape.
The Acqui Terme is an important spa and a modern wellness center; with its hot springs, it is perfect for rest rejuvenation. Otherwise, modern golf courses welcome professionals and amateurs alike.
For those looking for excitement, extreme sports are all the rage at the Bob & Downhill Park Val Curone and the Val Borbera Adventure Park, perfect for trekking, canoeing down steep descents, or competitive cycling.
For a special souvenir, visit Valenza, famous for its jewelry and for hosting the Mostra Internazionale di Gioielleria e Oreficeria (the International Jewelry and Gold Exhibition) in October.
Attend one or two of the various traditional festivals here, including the Festa Medievale with its historical procession through Cassine, the Santa Caterina Fair and the gastronomy exhibition Dolci Terre di Novi, both in Novi Ligure, and the Polenta Festival of Ponti.
Otherwise, the Fiera Nazionale del Tartufo (National Truffle Fair) is held in San Sebastiano Curone, the Lachera Ball in Rocca Grimalda, and the spectacular Historical Re-enactment of the Battle of Marengo in Alessandria, with parades and reconstructions of the most important combat scenes.
As with the gastronomy throughout Piedmont, the local cuisine is simple and authentic, and based on natural products.
Regional dishes are available everywhere, specifically the bugnet, a vegetable sauce used to flavor boiled meats, or the bagna caoda, a dressing for vegetables made with oil, onion and anchovies.
Porcini mushrooms stand out among the local specialties, along with the precious truffles from Bormida Valley. Cured meats are a popular delicacy, especially the filetto baciato in Aqui Terme and boiled beef salami from Mandrogne.
And the tasty rabaton is made with ricotta, vegetables, eggs and cheese.
Some of the delectable desserts include krumiri, typical cookies from Casale Monferrato; the renowned chocolate of Novi Ligure; chestnut cakes; soft and hard torrone (nougat); and amaretti (sweet and bitteralmond-flavored cookies).
Nearer towards Novi Ligure and Ovada, the gastronomic influence the Ligurian Region is evident in such specialities as the famous focaccia novese (similar to Genoa's foccaccia), while the biscotti della salute (lit. trans. health cookies) of Ovada are similar to the Legaccio di Genova cookies.
It is also an important wine-producing territory, with outstanding wines the likes of Cortese di Gavi, Dolcetto, Brachetto, Grignolino and Barbera.
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