Mango. Funny name for a town. Yet there's also a San Mango Piemonte in, of all places, Campagna.
We are there on a market day, when the village buzzes with activity. The little bar next to the castle where the market is set up is full. Farmers come and go. Women group in a table at the front. Those women who leave are immediately replaced by others. There are little fragments of conversation that flick past like torn paper in the wind.
"Ma! It's ugly."
As I fiddle with my camera, I imagine what the previous sentence might have been. No doubt, "Tourists, What are they doing here?"
The castle is built on top of a 13th century fort. It's made of brick. Whether it's really ugly is up to individual taste.
The drive up to Mango from the direction of Neive is spectacular indeed (n 2006 Neive was recognized as one of Italy's most beautiful villages and in 2007 it was awarded the 'Bandiera Arancione' (orange flag) by the Italian Touring Club). The vines have changed as well. Mango is Muscat wine country. Mango's enoteca regionale is called "Colline del Moscato" Regional Enoteca, Hills of Muscat. It's on the ground floor of the castle, a wine shop that's very interesting to visit.
Below you'll find pictures of the castle, its interior, the small church and the vineyards.
And here's one of those things that you find after you've visited a place. I mean, Mango is evidently famous for its marriages between local farmers and women from southern Italy. Some say the purpose of this migration is to "revive the farming community." Yeah, who wants to be a farmer's wife when they've lived with it all their life, eh? Now, you'd think this would be one of those old, mail order bride things they don't do any more. Yet in the 1960s the municipal tourist board put together an association of "bacialé" (matchmakers) and put new life in the traditional job of wedding arranger. Bravo. A job is a job.
Braida, a very respected wine presence in the Piemonte, even puts out a wine called "Il Baciale". It's one of those "maritage" type things.
And remember, winemaking is farming in Italy. The scruffy-looking guy next to you at the bar tossing down his Caffè corretto and wearing rubber boots might be a vineard owner or a top winemaker.
Beppe Fenoglio's incomplete but compelling 1968 novel about a partisan fighter named Johnny in Piemonte--Il partigiano Johnny--has many scenes set in Mango, and plaques commemorate those scenes.
You may wonder, as I did, why so much of "traditional" piemontese cuisine is based on ingredients that didn't come from Piemonte. Let's take a look at the list of top regional specialties:
I have added emphasis for the foods that are called into question here, and links for more detailed information. In any case, these two regional specialties include anchovies! Where did they come from? Piemonte is quite landlocked, after all. And how did veal come to get a canned tuna sauce augmented with anchovies?
Serena Giovannoni of Wish Versillia clued me in, "I always wondered about this, the answer is the salt roads which encouraged the trading of Piemonte meat for salt and salted fish and olive oil."
Aha, so we have veal with canned tuna and anchovy mayo, as you see over there in the picture to the left. A marriage of Liguria olive oil and fish with Piemonte's fine meat (often eaten raw).
Mango, you see, occupied a strategic position on the "Magistra Langarum", a road which linked Alba and Asti to the coast, which may have been, at one time, part of a Roman road that went from Alba to Finale Ligure.
The salt roads and trails that linked Piemonte to Liguria are popular today with mountain bike enthusiasts.
You can visit the Castle located in Piazza XX Settembre, 19 at the following opening times:
Monday and Tuesday 9 am-1 pm
Wednesday to Friday 9 am-7 pm
Saturday and Sunday 10 am-7 pm
The Castle is closed for the entire month of January.
For more information:
Tel. +39 0141.89291
Associazione Turismo in Langa: Via Cavour 16, 12051 Alba (Cn)
Mango offers a variety of lodging options, from hotels to rural bed and breakfasts: Mango Lodging.
For a great stay in the area, expecially in the late fall when truffles can be found, why not stay in a bed and breakfast run by a truffle hunter? We really enjoyed our stay and our meals at Tra Arte & Querce. You can read about our truffle breakfast experience on the blog: Breakfast of Champions in Piemonte.
In the same small village (Monchiero) is the upscale spa hotel Antico Borgo Monchiero.