Casale Monferrato - An Autumn by the Sea - CycleBlaze

October 22, 2018

Casale Monferrato

Today’s ride was probably the easiest one of the tour so far.  There is barely a ripple in the landscape from the time we left Novara until we arrived in Casale Monferrato.  The first half of the ride feels completely open, riding through the middle of perfectly flat, shorn rice and wheat fields.  Flat, but surprisingly beautiful and varied.  It was really a delightful ride, and one that I’d like to repeat in the spring, when the rice crop is in season.  There are a great many things about this tour that I dearly love, but one is it’s diversity - every week or so we’ved moved into a region that feels different than what came before.

A short and easy ride, but somehow we still managed to fill the day.  We didn’t leave Novara until after 10, and didn’t arrive in Casale Monferrato until shortly before 3.  We took our time, stopped often to admire the views, stopped for a picnic lunch, and were held up by a few extended stretches of slow dirt/gravel road.

Leaving Hotel Bussola, a place we were quite happy with. We joked about towing along with us to the next destination.
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Jen GrumbyYou're both certainly stong enough. Just go back and strap the hotel to a trailer. Your legs will never feel the difference!
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1 month ago
Scott AndersonTo Jen GrumbyWell, we tried but forgot about th plumbing issues. Water started spouting everywhere! Very embarrassing. We quickly unhitched and raced off before we got into more trouble.
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1 month ago
Looking back at Novara, and its landmark towering Basilica.
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Today’s ride was almost totally flat, through miles of rice and wheat fields.
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Most of today’s ride looked about like this.
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Approaching Monticello, an agricultural village complete with grain towers.
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In Monticello
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In Monticello
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Looking northwest, with the Pennine Alps faint but still visible.
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It’s all flat, but there’s a lot of variety and texture in today’s ride.
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It wouldn’t be a balanced day without a few miles of dirt. Sort of like eating your vegetables.
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“When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”
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Steve Miller/GrampiesThat saves a lot of decision making.
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1 month ago
This region is the rice basket of Italy. With everything shorn to stubble though, I’m not sure which fields were rice and which were wheat.
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Rachael has lagged behind here for personal reasons, but she’s still in the picture.
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Roll ‘em and leave ‘em.
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The southern part of the day’s ride parallel’s the Sesia River, which we never see until we cross it because the land is so flat. The plain is networked with irrigation channels though, which we often rode beside.
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Another fine lunch spot, although it would have been nice if the bench faced the view.
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For sale. Seems like someone would snap this right up.
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The Sesia River: originates at the Swiss border in the Pennine Alps; flows into Lake Ora, and then out again at its south end; crosses the rice belt, and empties into the Po a few miles south of here.
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In CF we’re staying at Casa Cristina, an apartment-style B&B in the historic center.  With kitchen facilities, self service breakfast, spacious accommodations and good WiFi, it’s a very nice place and highly recommended.

Immediately after arrival, we leave again for a nearby bike store.  My brakes are about shot and in need of adjustment; and since we’ve got someone at hand who will do it right, we might as well take advantage of it.  I watch carefully while he adjusts them hoping some mechanic’s magic dust will rub off on me, but we’ll have to see.  It takes him no time, and when we offer to contribute to the local economy he smiles but refuses the offer.

Casale Monferrato is an interesting place, and probably the least tourist-centric spot we’ve stayed in a few weeks.  It has some impressive monuments in the center, some well maintained and some not at all.  The tower and especially the cathedral are both wonderful to see, but the     impressively large castle in particular is a wreck, as are a few of the churches.  On one monument there is what looks to be a fund raising appeal to underwrite a renovation.  

Mostly though it just looks like an authentic working town, and probably a bit less prosperous than most places we’ve stayed in Italy so far.  I don’t think we saw anyone else here that looked obviously like a tourist.  It was appealing and refreshing to walk through the small central piazza and just see signs of people going about their lives - codgers lined up in the sun, card players, shoppers returning home with their wares by bike.

We ended the day at Cicinbarlichin, a small restaurant we stumbled on by accident.  It was quite good - warm, friendly, interesting decor, packed.  It is clearly the best restaurant in town.

Life in the piazza, Casale Monferrato
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Life in the piazza, Casale Monferrato
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Life in the piazza, Casale Monferrato
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The civic tower, the most visible symbol of the city. Its base dates back to the eleventh century, but it has undergone multiple revisions.
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The wonderful XII cathedral is unique in Europe, with its five narrow apses and a design that includes Armenian and Islamic features. Begun and consecrated in 1108, it was nearly demolished in the nineteenth century when it was decided to renovate it instead.
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The right side of the cathedral’s facade nearly mirrors the left, with each having its own tower. The surrounding buildings are too close to get a complete photo without a really wide angled lens.
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The entryway to the cathedral. I’ll have to do some research to see if can learn the background on its Islamic characteristics.
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It didn’t surprise me to learn later that the cathedral has Islamic features. My first impression was to be reminded of the great mosque in Córdoba.
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In the Casale Monferrato cathedral. We would like to have entered and walked around, but a service was underway. We’ll try to return in the morning for a better look before leaving town.
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Ride stats today: 36 miles, 400’

Today's ride: 36 miles (58 km)
Total: 1,820 miles (2,929 km)

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