Monferrato boasts several features which make it a unique area. In particular, in the Lower Monferrato – broadly corresponding the Monferrato near Casale – you can notice that most of the old farmsteads are built with big rock blocks you can only find here: the so-called “Pietra da Cantoni”, which derives its name from the squared blocks used to build “cantoni” (the old farmsteads), called “cantun” in dialect.
They can vary from yellow to different shades of grey up to white, dependig the origin area, and they are the result of a jumble of sand, loam and organisms such as crustaceans ans shell sedimenting, over the millennia, on the bottom of the sea which covered Monferrato hills in the past. Actually, you can easily find, on the “cantoni” surface, well preserved fossils of the creatures living into this prehistoric sea. A detail which gives an exotic and mysterious touch to Monferrato architecture.
People in Monferrato have exploited “Pietra da Cantoni” features in another clever way, too. They have started to dig the living rock, obtaining underground cellars where they could sore the best bottles or food during summer, taking advantage of the natural fresh temperature. “Infernot” were born this way.
In some cases, they are real works of art, with carved recesses, columns, capitals and even tables coming from a single block. Hidden treasures of an ancient folk tradition.