Wine, music and the Middle Ages in Monforte d’Alba
Monforte d’Alba, a medieval town in Piedmont’s Langhe, in the province of Cuneo, has the fortune of being able to music events and concerts in a natural amphitheater, built on the incline of the hill that slopes towards the aristocratic Palazzo Scarampi. The amphitheater has excellent acoustics, and is named after Polish pianist Mieczysław Horszowski (1892-1993), who in his long life had the opportunity to meet many famous figures in the history of music, such as French composers Gabriel Fauré and Camille Saint-Saëns, and orchestra director Arturo Toscanini.
Horszowski was a child prodigy. Turin-born poet Guido Gozzano, after hearing him play at twelve (in 1904), dedicated a sonnet to him that says:
O le tue mani, bimbo, se tu accenni / sui tasti muti, a pena! Ecco, e tragitti / un popolo di sazi e di sconfitti / alle rive del sogno alte e solenni. // E tu non sai! Il suono t’è un trastullo: / tu suoni e ridi sotto il cielo grigio / nostro piccolo gran consolatore! // E l’usignolo, come te, fanciullo, / canta ai poeti intenti al suo prodigio; / e non conosce le virtù canore (“Or your hands, child, if you barely touch the mute keys! You take a sated and defeated people to the high and solemn banks of a dream. And you don’t even realize! The sound for you is a plaything: you play and laugh under the gray sky, our little great comforter! The nightingale – like you, child – sings to poets intent on his prodigy, and does not know the virtues of singing”; translated from “Miecio Horszovski”, in “La via del rifugio”). A plaque with a few verses from Gozzano’s poem commemorates the year the Horszowski Auditorium was inaugurated: it was 1986, and the 94-year-old musician held a memorable concert.
Monforte d’Alba – one of the Langhe towns where Barolo wine is made – is nestled on the side of a steep hill, surrounded by vineyards that are now part of UNESCO’s World Heritage. To reach the historical center, take the “Saracca”: a group of medieval roads that climb the hill between tall walls and small squares, balconies and gates. One of the Most Beautiful Villages in Italy since 2018, Monforte d’Alba is definitely worth a visit to see its 11th-century bell tower and Perno Castle (rebuilt in the 18th century), the baroque Oratory of Sant’Agostino and San Bonifacio, and the 18th-century Palazzo Scarampi.