Almost every old farmhouse or country house jealously preserves one. They can be very small or almost as large as a studio.
We are talking about the Infernot: real underground caskets conceived and born from the unconscious genius of peasant.
The name derives from the Provençal enfernet and described a cramped prison, as cramped were the first small rooms excavated in the basement of private homes. The term then became characteristic of this type of cellars and over time it was also used to describe larger rooms. Evidence of this is ancient texts such as the one that, in 1679, illustrates the majestic cellar of the Venaria Reale.
Together with the Monferrato hills, they have been recognized as a Unesco heritage, a wealth to be enhanced, with a view to rediscovering and safeguarding the Monferrato area.
How and why were they built?
The Infernots were dug into the sandstone rock, typical of the Lower Monferrato, with a pickaxe and a lot of good will by the farmers of the past centuries who needed to have a room with constant temperature and humidity, without light and natural ventilation, to preserve meat, cheeses, vegetables and above all, the delicious local wine.
Not just natural refrigerators
In addition to their function as perfect food conservatories, some Infernot are an expression of the architectural art of that time. They were built by Monferrato sculptors during the winters, helped by farmers and winemakers when they were not engaged in agricultural activities. The work could even last 2, 3 or 5 years!
Where to find them
There are well-known infernots, such as the one that houses the Gancia Museum in Canelli, where a collection of historic Casa Gancia products is kept, from the first Italian sparkling wine to the company's supply certificates to the royal house and the papal state. Others, on the other hand, are completely hidden and can only be visited by knocking on the doors of farmhouses scattered throughout the territory or on the occasion of some local festival.
You are almost spoiled for choice to start your adventure in the bowels of the Monferrato land, but we suggest you start from Cella Monte, one of the municipalities where the Infernots are more numerous and more refined. It is no coincidence that it was chosen as the seat of the Ecomuseo della Pietra da Cantoni.
You can then continue a little further south, to Vignale Monferrato, where, inside the Palazzo di Conti Callori, you can find an Infernot excavated in an ancient seabed: in fact, some shells and even a tooth of shark!
Or move a few kilometers eastwards, to Campagna Monferrato where in Nello Scagliotti's Infernot you can admire along the corridors of the dated niches, protectors of precious bottles that were walled up at the birth of a child and opened only on the occasion of the completion of their eighteenth year of age..
At this link you can find all the most evocative and magical Infernot in the area. https://www.ecomuseopietracantoni.it/il-monferrato-degli-infernot/
In short, visiting one of these underground wonders is a must to become a true connoisseur of Monferrato.