MONDOVÍ
MONS REGALIS

Mondovì - MonregaleseThe countryside surrounding the town of Mondovì is called the Monregalese. The word is derived from Mons Regalis, the Latin name for Mondovì that was used in antiquity. Here, the last of the Langhe wine hills slowly morph into five pristine, alpine valleys. The Monregalese is a breathtakingly beautiful area where wine literally meets cheese in the southern-most part of Piemonte.

The eastern half of the Monregalese stretches from Mondovì to the town of Dogliani and has been planted with Dolcetto vines for centuries. This area encompasses the production zone for Dogliani DOCG wine. The western half of the Monregalese is composed of five verdant valleys at the feet of Mt. Mongioie (alt. 2,630 meters) in the Ligurian Alps. Each spring, dairy animals graze the upland pastures and their herbal flavored milk produces some of Piemonte’s most prized artisanal cheeses. Among them is Raschera d’Alpeggio DOP, a semi-hard cow’s milk cheese that is produced only in nine alpine villages in the Monregalese valleys.

Mondovì Piazza - photo courtesy of RenèPiemonte’s famous Langhe wine country follows the south bank of the Tanaro River from Mondovì north to Alba. Situated in the heart of the prized Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG wine production zones, Alba is generally considered the “capital” of the Langhe. Mondovì, being located in the Dogliani DOCG production zone, is not nearly as well-known as its sister city to the north, however, this was not always the case. In the 15th century, Mondovì was the undisputed capital of all of southern Piemonte and rivaled Turin for the attention of the Dukes of Savoia.

ËL MONT ËD VI

Mondovì - Meridiana Piazza del MoroMondovì was founded in 1198 on a hilltop in the village of Vico. The inhabitants of several neighboring villages united to form an independent municipality, free from the feudal domination that surrounded them. They named the town Ël Mont ëd Vi  meaning “the Mount of Vico”.  Because of its strategic location, Mondovì grew in population and by the early 1400’s it had become a center of commerce, art and culture. In 1472 Piemonte’s first book printed with moveable type was produced in Mondovì. By the 16th century, Mondovì surpassed Turin as the most populous city in Piemonte. Duke Emanuele Filiberto demonstrated the city’s importance to the House of Savoia in 1560 when he moved the seat of Piemonte’s university from Turin to Mondovì.

Mondovì’s Sabaudian legacy is evident today in the art and architecture that still graces much of the city. The centro storico (historic center) is the Piazza neighborhood which is located on the hilltop where the city was founded. Piazza is the heart of old Mondovì and is a jewel-box of gothic and baroque art and architecture. One of Mondovi’s most important treasures is the interior of the Chiesa della Missione by Jesuit artist Andrea Pozzo (1679). Pozzo was a master of perspective and here he created the illusion of a dome where none exists. In 2009 all of the interior frescoes and the mechanical altar were restored to their original splendor.

Mondovì Piazza - Chiesa della MissioneAnother important work in the centro storico is the Duomo (Chiesa di San Donato) by local architect, Francesco Gallo (1753). Gallo was a prolific architect from Mondovì who designed more than 80 important works during his career. He is best known for designing the magnificent dome of the Santuario Regina Montis Regalis in neighboring Vicoforte. Commissioned by Carlo Emanuele di Savoia in 1596, the church is considered to be one of the finest examples of the over-the-top Piemontese Baroque style. The project took more than 135 years to complete and Gallo’s dome is still the largest elliptical dome in world.

From its magnificent main square, the centro storico is linked by funicular railcar to the Breo neighborhood in the lower part of Mondovì. Breo is a lively area filled with charming squares, cafés, bars and porticoed streets lined with chic shops. In the center of Breo is the Piazza del Moro and the Chiesa di Ss. Pietro e Paolo (1549). The church’s frescoed facade and famous automaton clock compete for attention with the brightly colored sundials that surround the piazza. Mondovì is a city of sundials and boasts more than 20 historic examples. One of the most elaborate sundials, Ore Francesi, can be found on Via della Meridiana in Breo.

VECCHIA MONDOVÌ

Mondovì - Mercato ContadinoEvery Tuesday and Saturday mornings there is a Mercato Contadino (farmer’s market) along the banks of the Ellero River. The old marketplace fills with local vendors selling fresh produce and specialty foods from nearby farms. At the market you will find artisanal cheeses like RascheraCastelmagno, Murazzano and Bra; organic raw butter and honey; heirloom fruits and vegetables; fresh porcini mushrooms; hazelnuts and chestnuts. From September through December local trifulé (truffle hunters) gather in a corner of the market to sell both white and black truffles which are common in the Monregalese. The bustling Saturday farmers’ market is a popular meeting place where you are more likely to hear the Piemontese language spoken rather than Italian.

For a real taste of local life, find a table on the patio of the Pasticceria-Bar Comino and watch the rhythms of Mondovì pass before you. Comino is a local institution and is famous for its specialty pastries and sweets. Be sure and try some typical Monregalese treats such as Paste di Meliga (sweet cornmeal cookies), Bignole (small puff pastries creme fillings like hazelnut, gianduia, pistachio, etc.), Risole (small flaky pastries with jam fillings) and Cupete (hazelnuts, walnuts and honey between two thin wafers).

Mondovì - Ceramica BesioIn shops all over Mondovì you will find hand-made ceramics on display for sale. In the early 19th century Mondovì developed as an important center for the production of earthenware ceramics. More than a dozen manufacturers opened factories in the Monregalese as the demand for ceramics grew. Over the years, a traditional design emerged called Vecchia Mondovì which features a colorful rooster with a traditional blue lace border. Today, only one company, Vedova Besio & Figlio, is still in production using their original designs from 1842. A museum, Museo della Ceramica, opened recently in the centro storico to house an extensive permanent collection of ceramics from throughout the Monregalese.

For visitors to the Langhe who are looking to experience a slice of real Piemontese life, Mondovì is the perfect destination. Virtually tourist-free, its charming medieval streets are waiting to be explored. The people of the Monregalese are proud of their culture and traditions and they are always enthusiastic to share their outstanding cuisine, and of course, their great wine and cheese.

MONDOVÍ PHOTOS

* Thank you to Renè D for his kind permission to include his beautiful aerial photo of Piazza Maggiore

SANTUARIO DI VICOFORTE

GLI ACCIUGAI DI DRONERO

MONDOVÍ

CAPPELLA DELLE BRUNATE