Casale Monferrato is a city in Piedmont, Italy, known for its rich history and cultural heritage. It was one of the stops during my Piedmont road trip and though I only got to spend a half day there, Casale Monferrato certainly made a big impression on me. Situated on the banks of the Po, Italy’s longest river, the city traces its roots back to Roman times. The city prospered as a trading centre, a legacy which can be seen today in its magnificent palaces and churches. As I wandered around its elegant streets, I discovered many things to do in Casale Monferrato and wished that I had planned more time there.
Things to do in Casale Monferrato
Situated in the region of Piedmont, Italy, between the Monferrato hills and the broad alluvial plains of the Po River, Casale Monferrato is absolutely worth a visit for its stunning historic monuments, beautiful streets and laid-back atmosphere. Follow me on my walk along the most interesting places to visit in Casale Monferrato:
I started my walk at the Castle of Casale Monferrato, a formidable 15th century hexagonal structure surrounded by a moat. If you’re visiting Casale Monferrato by car, this is the perfect place to park as the castle is surrounded by a large car park.
This castle dates back to the 14th century and was the residence of the Gonzaga family. Today, it houses the Enoteca Regionale del Monferrato (regional wine store), a great place to get acquainted with the fabulous Monferrato wines!
Santa Caterina church
Across the road from the castle stands the beautiful Baroque-style Santa Caterina church. Its façade and dome are absolutely striking but step inside and you’ll find elaborate frescoes and intricate stonework.
From there, I entered Via Aurelio Saffi, a broad boulevard that leads into the city centre. The first thing that grabbed my attention was the Torre Civica (Civic Tower), which stands 60m tall next to the St. Stefano church. This 11th century tower is the symbol of the city. I’m pretty sure the views from atop the tower are amazing but alas, it was closed when I got there. If you’d like to climb the tower, I recommend inquiring about its opening times at the Casale tourist office.
Across from the St. Stefano church, I stopped to admire a building with a beautiful brick façade and imposing columns: Palazzo Ricci di Cereseto. This was the first of many palaces I saw during my walk around Casale.
Further along Via Aurelio Saffi, I arrived at Piazza Mazzini, the historic centre of the city. An equestrian statue of King Charles Albert (a Savoy king) stands proudly in the centre of the square. Palazzo Fornara, built in 1840 in neo-classical style, forms the east side of Piazza Mazzini.
Streets fan out in different directions from the square. I recommend venturing into Via Lanza and visiting the famous Krumiri Rossi bakery, which produces the city’s delicious krumiri biscuits.
Cathedral of Sant’Evasio
A stone’s throw from Piazza Mazzini stands the city’s impressive Cathedral of Sant’Evasio. A visit to the cathedral is definitely one of the top things to do in Casale Monferrato. Founded in 742 on a site where a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter once stood, the cathedral was rebuilt in the 12th century. This awe-inspiring Romanesque-Gothic cathedral is known for its impressive entrance and magnificent interior.
A short walk from the cathedral lies another Casale gem: the Seminary Library. Located inside the Vescovile Seminary, this 18th century library is absolutely beautiful. It houses more than 30,000 books including ancient manuscripts and parchments. If you plan to visit, please check with the tourist office as a reservation may be required.
The palaces of Via Goffredo Mameli
From the library, I continued my walk along Via Goffredo Mameli, which is lined by several grand palaces.
The Palazzo Gozani di Treville is arguably the grandest palace in Casale Monferrato. I first noticed how its long, elegant façade followed the gentle curve of the street. I stepped inside to admire the Rococo atrium and courtyard. That evening, I had dinner at Accademia restaurant inside the palace, which gave me a unique opportunity to see the palace’s famous frescoed halls.
Further down the road, I came across another stunning palace, the Palazzo Gozani di San Giorgio, which is now the Town Hall.
Other palaces along Via Goffredo Mameli include the Palazzo Magnocavalli and the baroque-style Palazzo Sannazzaro.
A block away from the Via Goffredo Mameli, I stumbled upon the Civic Museum. I bought a ticket and discovered a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, and archaeological artifacts that showcase the history and culture of the region. The sculptures are especially impressive! Located inside an old convent, this museum sure was another highlight of my visit to Casale.
From the museum, I continued my walk to Via Roma and spotted the extraordinary brick façade of the old Santa Croce church. It now houses some shops and cafés but the neo-Classical façade is absolutely striking.
The maze of narrow streets, courtyards, and houses west of Via Roma comprise the former Jewish ghetto. Casale Monferrato has one of the best-preserved Jewish ghettos in Europe, dating back to the 16th century. Here, I found another historic gem: the Synagogue of Casale Monferrato, reputed to be one of Europe’s finest. Tucked away in an alley, this 16th century Synagogue has a plain exterior but once inside (book in advance), I found an exquisite Baroque interior with elaborate carvings and paintings.
Evening in Casale
From the Synagogue, I strolled along Via Roma and found a bustling café in a side street called AnticAroma. It was time for aperitivo (Italian happy hour) and my glass of wine was accompanied by a plate of delicious snacks.
I then made my way to Accademia restaurant for dinner. I was excited to see the interior of the Palazzo Gozani di Treville and I wasn’t disappointed. The main staircase was impressive but my jaw quite literally dropped when I entered the main hall. It was simply magnificent!
I was glad to discover this gem of a city in Piedmont! I definitely recommend visiting Casale Monferrato and if you can, plan an overnight stay.
How to get to Casale Monferrato
Casale lies about an hour’s drive east of Turin and 1.5 hours west of Milan. There are also train services from these cities to Casale (± 2hours). Turin and Milan are about a 1.5-hour flight from Amsterdam (check flights). To explore the places and towns mentioned above, I recommend hiring a car.
Note: My Piedmont road trip was in collaboration with iambassador for the ‘Viaggio Italiano’ Project (Italian National Tourist Board, Ministry of Tourism & Conference of Regions and Autonomous Provinces).