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written by Dave Mitchell

Ostuni città bianca

On the second day such a two day visit to Casale Monferrato, the following are breathtaking places to visit in the town; 

1. Piazza Mazzini and its environs. The historic center of the town is centered here at Piazza Mazzini, previously a Roman forum site. It is named after Giuseppe Mazzini, who was a key republican figure of the Risorgimento. It is dominated by an 1843 equestrian statue of King Charles Albert dressed in Roman costume. 

2. Lombard Romanesque cathedral of St. Evasio. It is located a little to the east of the east of the Piazza Mazzini square. The cathedral was founded in 742, rebuilt in early 12th century and was consecrated in January 1107 by Pope Paschal II. It occupies the place where a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter was once located. This cathedral underwent restoration in 1706 and also the 19th century. It has an asymmetric façade that includes a complex narthex with two galleries connected by a tribune and closed by round arches. Its interior houses relics of St. Evasius and 11th century mosaics with Biblical scenes. 

3. Via Lanza. It runs northwards from the northwest corner of Piazza Mazzini. It is known for the Krumiri Rossi bakery that produces Krumiri biscuits. The biscuits have been a speciality of Casale since their legendary invention in 1870 by Domenico Rossi. Also in Via Lanza is the 17th century church of San Giuseppe, designed by Sebastiano Guala. Paint attributed to Domenicos brother, Lucrina Fetti an Ursuline nun, shows Christ venerated by St. Evasio and includes a very accurate depiction of contemporary Casale with its civic tower. 

4. Via Saffi. It runs west from Piazza Mazzini to Piazza Castello. It contains one of the town’s most cherished landmarks, the Torre Civica. This brick tower 60 meters high and of a square plan dates back to the 11th century. It suffered heavy fire damage in 1504 but was reconstructed six years later producing the now taller structure including the current bell chamber. The tower is adjoined by the church of Santo Stefano which stands on a small square on the east side. The church origin dates back to the second millennium but was built in the 17th century under Sebastiano Guala. The church walls are adorned and their vaults are 15 tondi prophets, apostles and a virgin painted by Pietro Francesco Guala. Facing back towards Via Saffi is the neo-classical Plazo Ricci di Ceresto. This imposing façade is marked by four massive brick columns and was built in 1806 from a local architects design. 

5. Teatro Municipale. The theatre stands at the north eastern corner of Piazza at the end of Via Saffi. It was opened in 1791 with a performance of La Moglie Capricciosa, an opera buffa by Vincenzo Fabrizi. It took a period of six years to be constructed through Abbot Agostino’s design. It is horse shoe-shaped with four tiers of boxes and a gallery. It is richly decorated by stucco, frescoes, gilding and velvets. This royal box’s curtains hang on a structure supported on stucco caryatids, designed by Abbondio Sangiorgio, who also designed the equestrian statue of Piazza Mazzini. 

6. The Giardini pubblici. This public garden fronts the railway station and extends westwards and dissects various streets almost to the southern end of Via Roma. The gardens contain a range of monuments to local and national known figures like Giovanni Lanza, Filippo Mellana, Giuseppe Antonio Ottavi and Giuseppe Garibaldi. The most important part of this garden is the Bistolfi’s war memorial of 1928. It’s a marble exdra with four caryatidis in the form of winged victories and is raised on a dias fronted with steps. The bronze sculpture of Fante Crociato, a foot soldier in the crusader period, takes center stage and a lightly second bronzed sculpture steps down from the platform. There are also other public sculptures of note in the gardens like the monument of King Charles Albert, the monument of alla difesa di casale etc.

7. Palazzi. This historic center is marked by many palazzos which often appears baroque due to urban renewal which took place in early decades of the 18th century. Among the best known palazzi include; The 15th century palazzo of Marchesa Anna d’Alencon in Via Alessandria. The medieval Casa Biandrate, situated at the junction of Via Guazzo and Via Morini, that holds its late gothic character. Palazzo Gozzani di Treville, the most beautiful palazzi in the town and part of Giovanni Battista’s great work, it is a long and gently curved façade which follows Via Mameli’s path. These are only few of the present palazzi’s in this center. 

8. Via Roma, ghetto and synagogue. It runs southwards from Piazza Mazzini. Behind shops on the west side of Via Roma lays the ghetto. It persisted until emancipation of the Jews in Piedmont following Albert Charles concession of the constitution. The synagogue lies inside a building at Vicolo Olper 44. It offers a hint from its nondescript exterior. Built in 1595, it is recognized as the most beautiful in Europe. Women galleries now host an important Jewish museum in the synagogue. Of particular interest are the tablets of the law in gilded wood dating from the 18th century, numerous Rinonim and Atarot carved with silver filigree. 

9. Santa Caterina. At the south east corner of the Piazza lays this elegant baroque church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It’s a master of work of Giovanni Battista Scapitta and was completed after his death by Giacomo Zanetti. It is marked by an elliptical cupola and a façade curvilinear both in plan and elevation. 

10. The Castle. It is an imposing 15th century military construction with a hexagonal plan, four round towers and an encircling moat. 

For foreigners heading to the region of Monferrato for touring, the following are tips that will help you get around the area with ease and be in good hands with the local customs. 

1. Rent a car or get a tour leader for a wine tour. This will enable you rich out all areas where one is produced. 

2. Once in Monferrato, if you are using a car park it in the big Piazza and stretch your legs around town. When the weather is kind, walk across the Piazza to a pedestrian street to access the pedestrian area where you will see the 15th to 18th century arcades and balconies, hip little shops, restaurants etc. 

3. Tip hotel workers for a good get along and converse with them to get to know more about the area. 

4. Carry your valuable documents on the trip as local authorities may request them at one point. For instance, at the airport you may be required to produce your visa or while driving in Monferrato you may be requested to produce your international driving license. 

5. When in crowded markets, take care of pick pocketers. They are frequently found in such crowded areas. 

6. Book train tickets in advance via the Trenitalia website to avoiding standing in long queues at the train stations and also get to enjoy discounts. 

7. Ensure to put on the right shoes as per the event you are going for. For instance, don’t put on slippers when going for mountain climbing or bike tour as you may injure yourself.

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