Canelli, Nizza Monferrato, San Damiano d'Asti and Moncalvo: located almost at the four opposite ends of the province, they are very different from each other, complementary in their architectural features and their different historical origins, a summa and epitome of the very complicated historical events which characterized Piedmont's late Middle Ages.
We are talking about small villages with a population ranging between 5,000 and 10,000 inhabitants, but with a reputation which is far greater than their size: Canelli has been for a century and a half the capital of Italian Spumante and then of world wine-making, Nizza Monferrato is the queen of Cardo Gobbo ("hunchback cardoon") and Barbera, San Damiano d'Asti is the elegant parlour of the Alfieri Hills, famous for its local breed fine capons, whereas Moncalvo, former capital of Monferrato, boasts gourmet traditions of boiled meats and truffles.
Moncalvo, which today is still blocking the road to Casale, watches over the province of Asti just as it was once the key and shield of Monferrato; San Damiano d'Asti, prior to the modern road system, served as Asti's watchtower to protect the road heading towards the "enemy" Alba. Nizza Monferrato and Canelli overlook the same Belbo river that runs from the Langa to Monferrato and, like any self-respecting village anywhere in the world, they are fierce rivals.
Actually, these villages are also a good epitome of the character of the southern Piedmontese people, who were relatives of the Ligurians and pupils of the Lombards, who had no French features at all, but rather a certain Levantine touch, especially in their trading skills and creative genius.
Sometimes it is good to breathe the provincial air, it helps to look at things from a different perspective, often a winning one, although relaxed and joyful.
In short, it is the perfect synthesis of the virtues of the Bel Paese.