You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
22-23 May 2018
It's time to leave the Tenuta Calabiana in the Langhe area -- Melvin knows what it means when the suitcases come out, and he's determined not to be left behind.
Leaving beautiful downtown Gallo on a rainy morning
We're on our way to the B&B La Casa nel Vento just outside of Vignale Monferrato, a small town of 1,000 in the Province of Alessandria, just 20km NE of Asti, 20km NW of Alessandria, and just 14km SW of Casale Monferrato. (The old Marquisate of Monferrato now comprises pretty much the Piedmont provinces of Asti and Alessandria.)
A photo of our cat Melvin getting to know our huge first-floor terrace at the Casa nel Vento, the 'House in the Wind'. This is Melvin's first visit here. 22 May 2018.
And this is the Squirrel's last visit here, 18 May 2016
-- Melvin! Get back in here!
The grand terrace
It's time for Melvin the Doge to get settled down for a nap. We're off to Lu for our periodic restocking of Grignolino wine by the carful.
A better view of La Casa nel Vento, from May 2016; Kristin about to open the electric gate, using . . .
. . . the little red botton.
The Catina Sociale in Lu Monferrato opens at two, but we always try to get here by noon for a great lunch in La Trinità.
The tiny main room is all taken up, but we're pleased to learn that the Trinità has another large room just alongside.
Here's the main room in November 2016, when we were lucky to get the last table. The kids are here every day for lunch, shepherded by their teacher or caregiver.
One's favorite beer in Italy, worth coming to Italy for by itself (as much for the label as for the beer). But, since it's midday, that's Coca Cola in the Moretti glass.
The food at La Trinità is wonderful. Now it's time for the Cantina Sociale.
Fetching the car in downtown Lu -- we first came here in 2014 and stayed in the Palazzo Paleologi, a semi-restored palace of the Marquesses of Monferrato of the Paleologus dynasty in the 14th century; that was fun, but since then we've just been stopping by in Lu for the Grignolino.
The long way round to the Cantina through one-way streets
On the correct street at last
The bucket on the floor is a temporary response to a leak in the ceiling after a furious storm.
Plenty for everybody, but Kristin's mainly after the . . .
Grignolino. A bottle here costs less than a quarter of the supermarket price in Switzerland -- throw in a small Swiss customs fee for bottles over the allowance, and you can't afford not to fill the car entirely, leaving luggage behind if necessary.
And a few bottles of the many other varieties on offer
It's a true exercise in small-car logistics to get it all in, and leave room for the cat.
A rainy afternoon drive back to Vignale
Through Camagna Monferrato . . .
. . . with still more one-way streets
Vignale Monferrato seen from the Casa nel Vento
It's dinner time in Vignale
In the Trattoria Panoramica Sarroc -- very good, though our super favorite in Vignale is the charming, pub-like Osteria della Luna, closed this evening (we'll be there promptly tomorrow night, with bells on)
Breakfast time in the wonderful Casa nel Vento -- today we're embarking on another visit to Asti.
On the road to Asti, we'll stop in at Montemagno on the way and see if we can get into the castle there.
That's the Castello di Montemagno there, not looking terribly welcoming at the moment.
Montemagno, a comune of about 1,000 souls, dates from about the year 1000, and the present castle from the early 14th century, replacing an earlier fortification and considerably renovated through to its 18th century incarnation as what's described as an elegant resident.
We're on the porch of the Chiesa Parrocchiale dei Santi Martino e Stefano, just below the castle, with a staircase that has been compared to the Spanish Steps in Rome. The 18th century Church of the Brotherhood of St. Michael is at the foot of the stairs on the right, which seems a bit redundant.
The porch of the church of Saints Martin and Stephen (taking a photo of the whole façade would have required walking all the way down those steps, and back up again). The church is very old but is said to have been thoroughly remodelled in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The castle, with its Ghibelline-style swallowtail battlements
Vicolo IV, looking down to the town centre (the twelve straight streets leading directly down from castle are denominated by Roman numerals)
Back on the Via Conte Carlo Calvi in front of the castle
Strada Provinciale 29 (which probably corresponds to Vicolo III)
Looks like wool-drying barns
In our disappointment at finding the front doors locked up tight, we're sneaking around behind the castle (on the scenic promenade) to see if we can find an unguarded way in.
The yards below the castle (peeking over the outermost wall), with the main building in the centre and the gardens stretching off to the left. The castle seems to have been here, part of the Marquisate of Monferrato, since the 13th century, and was enlarged in the 14th and again over the years to become the elegant residence that is apparently still privately owned and . . .
. . . "can be visited from May to October on the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month from 9 a.m. to 12 noon."
-- Hey, thanks a lot!
It was held for centuries by several families as a fief of the Dukedom of Savoy, but the last feudal lord of the castle was Francesco Maria Grisella di Rosignano, Marquis of Rosignano and Count of Montemagno, a gentleman of the King's chamber and member of the Accademia delle Scienze in Torino, who died in 1802.
The yard, or parco, is evidently set up for some kind of village fête, but we just saw two people gazing down at us from that low round tower, perhaps disdainfully.
Such a pity, it looks like it would be fun to see the insides of it -- from the aerial view on Google Maps, it seems to have a oval or elliptical central courtyard. Like this --
Next: Views of Asti