In the south of Piedmont, in the province of Asti and Alessandria, right between the Turin hills and the Ligurian Apennines, there is a land so rich in treasures that give to visitors infinite reasons of enchantment.
In my previous posts I already wrote about Langhe and Monferrato since I have been there many times and everytime it has been a different experience.
I finally learnt it is not enough to get lost among the sea of hills, in search of noble castles and good wineries, some treasures remain hidden and it takes some time and effort to discover them…
Somehow that’s what happened during my last excursion since, by chance, I came across a medieval fairytale place!
The village of Montabone
The urban structure of Montabone is still that of the medieval shelter and the access is defended by a robust arched door perfectly preserved. Although it does seem to me more like an invitation to enter 😉.
Once crossed the medieval gate I felt I was looking at a real postcard: every corner is so suggestive, the ancient alleys and the beautiful stone houses hide breathtaking views on the hills.
Not only, the mastery and the accuracy adopted in the restoration of these houses is quite impressive!
The medieval village is old but looks new, just built! You feel a little confused! In some respects it vaguely reminds me of Grazzano Visconti, a medieval village near Piacenza.
Nowadays these beautiful houses are holiday homes. It’s become increasingly difficult to buy a stone house in such beautiful place, recently the demand from foreign buyers has increased while the offer of available properties is low with high prices. There I met people of all nationalities, from Iceland to New Zealand, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Russia, Belarus, Germany just to name a few.
A building manager, Piero Nicala, now retired, has created and placed concrete statues depicting women and men of the village of Montabone, warriors, animals and shepherds.
Every corner seems to reveal the life of a time!
Not only within the walls of the village, just outside in the woods you can come across Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 😉.
Each statue is unique and made of solid concrete. Just to give you an example, this ox weighs 4.5 tons!
Montabone is beautiful in every season. It is in summer with the intense and vivid colors of the hills and vines, it is in autumn with the thousand shades of foliage…
but also in winter when decorated for Christmas it turns into the village of Santa Claus!
In spring, almost obvious, nature explodes and all the plants are in bloom. I was told that in autumn there is fog in Langhe, fair observation, but if you are in the village and look down this is what you see. A very suggestive lake of fog!
💡 Interesting to know:
The origins of Montabone are very remote. Probably the first were the Romans of the colony of Aquae Statiellae (Acqui Terme), who took the opportunity to work the fertile lands of the surrounding hills and build numerous villas, complete with farm, cellar, stable and housing for the servants.
With the advance of the Barbarians and the gradual conquest of northern Italy by the Germanic-speaking peoples (Goths and Lombards), the military and family group of the German Abbo took up residence on the hill, where used to be the castle, and built the first urban agglomeration.
It is curious to note that the term Montabone, like the village of Mombaldone (Mons Baldonis) or Ricaldone (Runcus Aldonis) and so many other Piedmontese localities originates from the word Mons (hill) and the form of genitive staff of the German Abbo-Abbonis: therefore, the Hill of the Germanic Abbo!
For the locals instead, the etymology of the therm Montabone is linked to the meaning of “Monte Buono” (good mountain), for the goodness of the wines they produce here: Moscato and Brachetto, Cortese, the delicate Dolcetto and the strong Barbera d’Asti. I can confirm that their wines are delicious!
Among the sacred buildings there is the Baroque Church of Sant’Antonio Abate with a particular bell tower with corinthian columns. The recently restored facade is covered with brick and travertine marble.
Inside the Church there are precious paintings by Guglielmo Caccia, known as Moncalvo or The Raphael of Monferrato, who was born right here in Montabone in 1568. Among his paintings you will find Madonna of the Rosary with Child and Saints Domenico and Caterina; San Rocco; Madonna with Child and Saint Anna.
Starting from Montabone there are several hiking trails through woods and vineyards that allow you to breathe fresh air enjoying the natural and artistic beauty of the territory. Do not miss the excursion to the White and Blue Giant Bench installed by Azienda Agricola Gallo in 2020, the views of the hills of Langa Astigiana is breathtaking!
It is not only about wines, this land is famous for its delicious cuisine. Just think that in the nearby Canelli there are several Michelin restaurants!
And here, in Montabone, I found a special restaurant with views on hills and vineyards that combined masterfully dishes of Piedmont and Veneto cuisine in an innovative way! It’s hard to describe but the kitchen ranges from the typical Piedmontese plin ravioli to the tajaren egg, from macaroni to venetian bigoli.
La Preja was opened quite recently by a young couple and it has already won its fame for its unique gastronomic experience.
I highly recommend you to taste the traditional menu and the mixed menu (Piedmont and Veneto). Both include an appetizer, a first course, a second course and a dessert of your choice.
The veal with tuna sauce, raw meat, agnolotti and noodles are just excellent. All desserts are homemade, special mention to sbrisolona with a muscat zabaione 😋.
The dishes are excellent in taste and presentation and the value for money is super.
So, meet you in Montabone 😉
If you share with me the passion for this part of Italy do not miss the following insights:
The Underground Cathedrals of Canelli: a unique place in the world
Roccaverano and the most beautiful villages of Alta Langa
Monferrato: a charming day-trip among wine and castles