15 Apr Ecomuseum Pietra da Cantoni
It may seem strange entitle a museum to a stone, but a visit to the Ecomuseo della Pietra da Cantoni clarifies why this unique material is so important to the Monferrato’s culture.
A Stone that’s worth a Museum
The museum, established in 2003 in Cella Monte, has pioneered the advent of ecomuseums in Italy, that started in Piedmont in 1995.
It highlights Pietra da Cantoni as a hallmark of this area through research, tours and collaborations with Italian Universities. Curator Chiara Natta and President of the Ecomuseum Claudio Castelli led us to discover it.
The headquarters is located in Palazzo Volta, an old renaissance vicarage, under which you will find the main Infernot in the area (well… in the world!). The Ecomuseum is also surveying all Infernot of Monferrato: it is not easy because often they are located in private houses (here you can find a list of Infernot open to the public).
The Ecomuseum purpose is to coordinate all the private owners to ensure access to visitors and to share with everyone all the Infernot sites (so far have been surveyed more than 50).
A Living Museum
“The term ecomuseum” explains Chiara Natta “represents the territory more than the building. The real museum is the everyday, local life”.The ecomuseum was created to preserve the territory and help people rediscover the local culture and traditions“.
The objects on display are not only objects from old daily life but also include the landscape, the architecture, agricultural workings, general know-how, and the oral testimony of tradition.
This means working with the community and encouraging locals to protect the environment and also to share their stories, their expertise and their cultural heritage, as most of the Infernot, as mentioned, are in private houses.
A UNESCO Cornerstone
Over the years the eco-museum has been proposed for many events, tours of the infernot in particular. “The Infernot have become UNESCO World Heritage Sites because they are part of a traditional know-how“.
The use of building an Infernot started in late 700s and spread in the mid-800s when they were used as cellars reserved for the finest wine bottles.
All of them were dug by hand in Pietra da Cantoni by vine growers during the winters when work ended in the vineyards. Each infernot is unique and, although the farmers who built them did not have special knowledge of architecture, their work is still perfect, resistant, and in many cases aesthetically beautiful.
The Ecomuseum of Pietra da Cantoni offers also other events and initiatives, such as:
- Il Giardino Diffuso: tours of historic parks and botanical gardens
- Monfervinum: wine-trekking tours between cellars and hills
- Genius loci: guided tours of the various villages of Monferrato to discover unique, lesser-known places
- Art & Nature: art projects in partnership with ArtMoleto, which gathers the work of artists which reinterpret the local landscape
- Music activities and festivals
- Educational workshops for children
The Ecomuseum it is part of MOMU: a network of Museums of Monferrato, allowing you to visit 8 museums in the Casale Monferrato area with a single ticket pass, sold in each museum and valid for one year of free entries. If you are interested or if you want to book a tour please contact the Ecomuseum:
Ecomuseo della Pietra da Cantoni
Written by Tommaso Zavattaro | Edited by Fiona Scull | Photography by Monica Marescalchi