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Monday in Monferrato--Market, Santuario, Hilltop Drive

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We woke to the beginnings of the cloud cover starting to lift off the Apinnenes that we can just see from our window. We were starting to run low on food and food shops are generally closed on Mondays in Italy, except for large supermarkets. We decided to head over to the nearby village of Murisengo for their weekly market. Most Italian markets are almost more about the dry goods than the food. Large vans open up to display clothing, shoes, hardware, gardening supplies, toys; and the food is usually clustered at one end. We parked and walked up to the market, peering down a side street to see an older woman tending her stoop against the backdrop of the Alps.

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There's always the "Old Guy's Bench" somewhere. Amusingly, the gentleman in the blue vest is one of Toni's neighbors.


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We bought picnic supplies,and drove up to the Santuario di Crea, above Serralunga, an attractive stone town perched on the hill. The Sanctuary was built in the 17th century on the site of an earlier church, and over the years small chapels were added on the hillside. You can follow a path past the chapels, peering through little windows to see the frescoes and terra-cotta statues inside. Not great art, a few chapels had slightly odd images, but it was an interesting walk. There are many picnic tables along the route, and lots of people were eating lunch.

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http://www.sacrimonti.net/User/index.php?PAGE=Sito_en/sacro_monte_crea&argo_id=2

After our picnic lunch we went inside the Sanctuary. In a dark hall to the right were hung many 19th and 20th century ex-votos, representations of thanks to Mary for sparing a loved one's life after illness or accident. They usually have a primitive painting of the incident, ranging from a difficult birth, to being trampled by a horse, or a car accident in more recent times. I appreciate them for the reminders of the fragility of life in times past, and for the emotion you can sense behind the events.


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We drove down to Moncalvo, but as the town was firmly shut down for the afternoon rest, continued on. We thought we'd drive out to the regional enoteca in Vignale Monferrato. This turned out to be an extraordinary drive, skirting ridges between hilltop towns, vineyards, wheat fields, nut trees, and the mountains in the background.


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We saw a sign advertising hazelnut products for sale, and found a lovely agriturismo where we shown around by a charming young man--who turned out to be Matteo, who hosted Joe from Israel a few years ago. This looks like quite the nice place to stay, just outside Moncalvo. We bought delicious hazelnuts, and a bottle of wine. http://www.querciarossa.com/uk.htm

Arriving in Vignale, we learned that the castello where the enoteca was housed was undergoing restoration. Ah well, it was a wonderful drive.


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For dinner, we went to the agriturismo just down the road, Cascina Rosengana. Organic produce, you can pick how many courses from the verbal menu and split courses. "One for two" was still too much food. A parade of four antipasti (prosciutto and lardo; local robbiola with condiment; veal crudo with local gorgonzola; zucchini and almond flan). Then agnolotti so perfect it doesn't need sauce, then beef with wonderful vegetables. No room for dessert, but of course bring on the grappa with coffee.

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