Let’s visit Casale, my town, following the smell of the Krumiri buiscuits.
Many know it for an old advertisement for the famous biscuits (not the original ones, however), others because a relative has provided military service here but this quiet town that looks at the Po river and has a shawl of hills, in the past it was the capital of Monferrato.
I could start by telling you about Aleramo and the legend of his fast iron horse with a MON (in dialect it means “brick”, from which Mon-ferrato), which allowed him to conquer this great hilly and fertile territory … I could tell you about the Paleologian dynasty of Gonzaga but I don’t. The Monferrato history is complex although fascinating: what matters is to know that Casale is very ancient and that the Italian history has passed through here
I will accompany you, as I do with friends who come to visit me for the first time, showing you the most interesting monuments of the historic center of Casale.
The first important building you will stumble upon from the bridge over the Po river is the Castle, the ancient Renaissance stronghold.
Given its geographical position Casale was always a strategic place and this fortress, remodeled over the centuries, a fundamental defensive point. Walking around the moat we find a statue entitled “La Difesa” – the Defense – , a female figure facing the Po in a warlike attitude, like saying: – Be careful! -. Fortunately the Castle is now a container for events, exhibitions, concerts, home of the children’s library and there is also the Enoteca del Monferrato, where we can now sit and taste a good wine! Cheers.
We continue the tour: overlooking Piazza Castello there is the Civic Theater. Some argue that its interior is a “miniature Scala Theater” and I agree. The theater season includes prose, concerts and dance.
And while walking in the streets of the town, the scent of the Krumiri often attracts your nastrils. The Rossi di Portinaro biscuits, are said to be inspired by the mustache of King Vittorio Emanuele.
Taking via Saffi you immediately see the Civic Tower, symbol of the city, also called Torre di Santo Stefano because it is located next to the church of the same name but the bell tower is not.
Continuing further we arrive in Piazza Mazzini, the heart of the center and here we must have a great self-control on our taste buds, because in some days you can smell the scent of the Krumiri Rossi di Portinaro (the original ones) that are baked in the nearby and bring the mouth water only by smelling the air. These rough and curved looking biscuits were invented in 1878 by pastry chef Domenico Rossi, said to honor King Vittorio Emanuele II, who died in that year.
The “handlebar mustache” of King Galantuomo seem to have inspired the curvature of the dolcetto. Regarding the name “Krumiro”, there would be no political reference but some think it derives from the name of a liqueur of the time. Mr. Rossi received several awards for his creation, including one very important at the 1884 Universal Exposition, which made it known throughout Italy, then a newborn.
The Krumiri, now exported to the world, are always the same. Although the oven has long been taken over by the Portinaro family, they are still handcrafted in the same laboratory, hand-boxed one by one in the traditional packaging with the Savoy coat of arms and framed in red.
There is no Casalese family that does not have at least one of these tin boxes at home. My grandmother kept the necessary to sew, my aunt the greeting cards and I, as a child, the stickers. And there is no child who, grabbing a krumiro before eating it, did not lean it between his nose and lip like a mustache!
C’è chi dice di conoscere la ricetta dei Krumiri: non credeteci, quelli originali sono inimitabili e hanno un ingrediente segreto: forse con uova, zucchero e farina è amalgamata la storia di Casale.
Just a few steps from the Portinaro shop, I accompany you to see one of the “highlights” of my city: the Cathedral of Sant’Evasio.
I really like its simple facade, built in terracotta and tuff stone typical of the area and having a look inside is a must because its atrium is very particular.
Then I invite you to stroll through Via Roma, the one with the arcades and to be intrigued by the surprises that you will find in the doors of its small cross streets.
For example, you could visit the Baroque Synagogue, a jewel hidden in the former Jewish ghetto, or visit the Civic Museum and the Gipsoteca of the great sculptor Bistolfi. We can also see the park but … it’s getting late!
Let’s go back to the Po and enjoy a Monferrato sunset at the pier.
I hope you enjoyed the trip, I would still have much to show you and tell you over a glass of good wine, perhaps accompanied by a plate of agnolotti … but that’s another story.