Nizza Monferrato

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The temple of the Piedmontese Barbera wine is raised up on more than column. Nizza is surely one of them, so much so that its name is given to a subzone that, for the Nicesi, represents a “superzone.” Nizza DOCG (formerly Barbera d’Asti Docg Superiore Nizza) is produced in a restricted area of 18 communities of the Nizza territory that follow strict guidelines, beginning with the minimum production of grapes per hectare: 70 quintals in this subzone as opposed to the 90 quintals of Barbera d’Asti DOCG.

In the big Piazza Garibaldi is Foro Boario, or the “peak of Nizza,” an imposing building constructed in the end of the 1800s and a symbol of commerce, today the seat of the Tourism Office, culture, and enogastronomic events of the city. On Fridays, the piazza fills with vendors’ stands for the weekly market, which is also held in Via Maestra and Piazza XX Settembre.

Not far on Via Pio Corsi is the Palazzo Crova building, today housing the Regional Enoteca, the restaurant La Signora in Rosso, and the Museum of Enogastronomy. Its spacious cellars store a selection of 600 labels, of which 400 are Barbara. It won’t be easy to choose! Let yourself be guided by Simone, the young manager of the Enoteca who, between a slice of salumi and a chunk of cheese, recounts the history of any wine you wish to know about. The Museum of Enogastronomy on the floor above invites you to discover the cuisine of nobles, the bourgeois, and the peasants. Passing through one room to the next, discover the excellent products of the zone, including wines, the Gobbo cardoon of Nizza, fresh Robiola cheese of Roccaverano, sweet Amaretti of Mombaruzzo, and the white truffle. To experience these specialties first-hand, make yourself at home at the restaurant “La Signora in Rosso,” where all menu items are made with local products. Specialties include the hand-minced meat tartare, and the veal with traditional tonnato sauce, proposed by chefs Alesso Azzolina and Chiara Ratti. Average cost is 20-25 euro per person, wine included.

Leaving Palazzo Crova, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the porticoes of Via Maestra. A characteristic element of the city and a point of pride for the Nicesi, the long porticoes allow travel by foot through the center even on the rainiest of days. Allow yourself to linger outside the many shop windows; or why not enjoy a caffè with pastry treats at the food and wine shop “La Via Maestra,” or an artisanal gelato from “da Chicca,” where wine plays a starring role among the ingredients? Here you can taste gelato flavors such as Moscato d’Asti or Brachetto d’Acqui.

Halfway through your walk, you’ll approach the Town Hall with its crenellated tower, the famous Campanon. Nizza is a bit of a political hotspot: the piazza opposite the tower has forever been spectacle to discussions among its citizens, who are passionately active in local politics. And it is under the Campanon every year on the Day of St. Stefano that the "episode of lard" is remembered. In the Napoleonic era, the Nicesi rebelled against supporters of the Savoy when they asked them for bread and wine. The Nicesi “offered” them an additional accompaniment, or lard – that is, their clubs and bludgeons, chasing back their assailants and defending their independence. In memory of this episode, every 26th of December, the Pro Loco association offers everyone an aperitivo, the Italian “happy hour,” with the starring dishes of this particular moment in history.

Continuing on your walk, arrive in Piazza XX Settembre or, as the Nicesi prefer to call it, the “Vegetable Piazza,” because it hosts the fresh fruit and vegetable market every Wednesday and Friday. In the center stands a bust of Francesco Cirio, patriarch of the food processing industry whose origins were from Nizza Monferrato. Don’t miss the Church of St. Ippolito: on its facade, depicted in brick, is a dominating mosaic of the city’s martyr, an unfortunate man who was dismembered by being tied to two horses running in opposite directions. Leave yourself some time to visit the Bersano Museum, which houses one of the most important collections of tools and instruments used in the work of oenology. Among the casks, vats, and presses, the history of wine is displayed from the peasants in the field to present-day wine labels. Of noted importance is the steam-powered locomotive in the center of the courtyard. Other curiosities to be discovered in Nizza include the Sugar House of the Pero family, created for the purpose of documenting in an original way the world of sugar production; not to mention the company history of the sons of Pinin Pero. You’re in for a sweet treat when you reach the room with the largest collection of sugar packets in the world.

    Last modified onMonday, 16 January 2017 17:27
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