The Hills of the Sea
Once upon a time, there was the sea and if you listen carefully….you can still hear the sound of it. This route takes you to discover a fascinating land, rich in history, culture, sensations, pathways and sceneries, also known as Le Colline del Mare (“The Hills of the Sea”).
We are in the area south of Asti, on the border between Langhe and Monferrato, a land connected to the sea with a long and interesting geological history. The itinerary starts from Nizza Monferrato. Whether you start from the area opposite the railway station or from Piazza Garibaldi with its characteristic Foro Boario (The Cattle Forum), you cannot miss a visit to the town centre. Take a walk on Via Maestra and you will immediately notice the historical importance of this town: 15-century noble palaces, crenulated towers, facades with terracotta decorations, the Campanon (the Bell Tower).
Once you’ve completed the tour of the town, continue towards Incisa Scapaccino. The first few kilometres go along the flat, among fields and vegetable gardens. This area is known for the production of Cardo Gobbo (“bent” cardoons), a delicious variety protected by Slow Food, and eaten with the local specialty, Bagna Cauda. Once you reach the small town of Incisa, turn left in the direction of Cortiglione.
The road gently climbs for a few kilometres along the National Reserve of Val Sarmassa, an area rich in wildlife species. At the top of the hill, approaching the village of Cortiglione, after a wide hairpin bend to the right, we turn left in the direction of Vinchio.
The small road, of the same name, is the very best a biker could ever expect! Gentle ups and downs, no traffic, a trail along the edge of the hills amongst woods and vineyards …. everywhere you look the hills cross over like the waves of the sea.
This region is home to the production of an outstanding Barbera DOCG, one of the many excellent wines in Piedmont. Keep riding until you see a wooden frame that marks an equipped rest area.
Our ride will take us to the Casotto di Ulisse. Il Casotto (in Piedmontese dialect, Casòt or Ciabot) is a small building realized with dry-laid local stones or bricks (mon), made up of the red, clay-rich soul of Monferrato. This small building located in the centre of the plain Monte del Mare takes its name from the partisan “Ulisse”, Davide Laiolo, journalist and writer. The notice boards that can be found here offer an interesting reading about the surrounding area.
Taking a country track (cauzagna in Piedmontese dialect) between the vineyards, typically used during the grape harvest, you will reach a natural terrace with a view over the valley. In the background, you can see the village of Vinchio-Vaglio with its Cantina Sociale, which is worth a visit to discover the secrets of the wines produced in this area.
The last few kilometres back to Nizza Monferrato are almost all along the flat. Once back in the town’s historical centre, it’s time for a visit to the Museo del Gusto in Palazzo Crova and for a tasting at Enoteca Regionale (Regional Wine Centre). This marks the end of the route along the Colline del Mare for a total of 53km at a reasonable altitude suitable for anyone.
The best months for this ride are May/June if you enjoy the intense green of the vines, and September/October if you prefer the yellows and reds of the autumn, which transform the landscape into a multicolored patchwork that for sure will catch the attention of incredulous visitors.
Credits: Giuseppe Rossi
Along the way:
Point of interest along the way
14049 Nizza Monferrato
14049 Nizza Monferrato