Upper Monferrato: a Sunday drive in Val Bormida

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Join me for a Sunday drive, I want to show you a ring route, usually a must for mountain bikers, among wooded hills, vineyards, hazel groves, enchanting landscapes, history, and taste.

The starting point is Acqui Terme, from which we go up the course of the Bormida to Bistagno, where the two branches of the river meet, and from there we follow the signs for Monastero Bormida, our first stop: prepare your camera!

Monastero Bormida: from the work and prayer of the Benedictines to a mighty manor

Some Benedictine monks settled in this place shortly after the year one thousand and began to cultivate and build their monastery. Now, this no longer exists, or better has become over the centuries a beautiful medieval castle remodeled over time. It retains  its primitive structure with towers and a very powerful, but a seventeenth-century facade and a precious Renaissance loggia have been added which have made it more graceful.

Monastero Bormida: from the work and prayer of the Benedictines to a mighty manor

The bell tower, which belonged to the abbey church and later became a belfry, is still intact there, connected to the castle by a very rare arch bridge. Snap!

The bell tower and the arched bridge of the Bormida Monastery

It is better to access the castle square from the characteristic bridge elevation (I had seen one similar in Castelnuovo Calcea), a sort of very scenic ramp leading to what was the entrance door to the village. The ramp is connected as the crow flies to a Romanesque stone bridge. Here, selfies chances are plenty, as next to the bridge there is a small Panchina del Cuore (the heart bench) inviting passers to admire the landscape and looking at a much larger bench, located on the opposite hill, in the San Rocco Region.
Next to the bridge, various trail markers indicate some routes for those who practice trekking: the network of paths is very vast and I am attracted by the one marked in yellow: the “Path of the five towers“. Today, however, I don’t have time to walk, I want to finish the tour in the evening and then I will reach some places touched by the route by car.
We continue towards Bubbio, Loazzolo, famous for its wines, then the villages of Cessole, Vesime and we see the tower of San Giorgio Scarampi in the distance. It is the territory of the “Langhe Astigiane”, rugged, with elevated reliefs, and offering wonderful glimpses of erosive phenomena caused by the river in the tuff soil: the badlands. Snap!

Erosive phenomena in the “Langhe Astigiane”,

Immersed in this naturalistic beauty, we continue to Roccaverano, our second stop.

Roccaverano, high on the Val Bormida

This village is located at 759 meters a.s.l. but if we want to go even higher and see a great panorama, we can climb for free on the ladder of the tower, 30 meters high, which is located in the town center, in a shady garden (do you have the wide angle?). The tower has a circular base, very solid, and was used as a sighting point and defensive tool. For this reason, the entrance door is located seven meters from the ground: it was probably entered using a mobile ladder which was withdrawn inside in the event of an attack. The tower was part of a castle, of which however only a wall remains, whose mullioned windows overlook the square. Even visitors can look out thanks to a new structure in wood and metal, made of walkways and stairs. From the windows of the castle you can clearly see the sixteenth-century church, whose facade is attributed to Bramante. The tavern in the square is also dedicated to Bramante, where I offer you an excellent hazelnut ice cream, a must in these parts.

The real specialty of the town, however, is the Robiola cheese di Roccaverano D.O.P., produced exclusively in these valleys by a unique breed of goats, the chamois goat which, according to legend, seems to have come to Italy following the Saracens. In any case, the cheese is delicious and can be purchased in some farms or at the Consorzio della Robiola di Roccaverano D.O.P.

We are at the halfway point of our ring route and we head towards Spigno Monferrato, accompanied by the scent of the gorse that flows beside the window, following this other valley of the Bormida which has a more tortuous course. Gradually you go down in altitude reaching the third stage.

Spigno, scent of gorse and cinematographic paths

Here I absolutely want to go over a 13th-century film bridge: the Ponte di San Rocco, complete with a chapel and a post for the tax collector, fantastic! It seems to have gone back in time. Looking up towards the perched village, I note the Parish church of Sant’Ambrogio in Ligurian style, to be seen even just for the beauty of its grassy churchyard.

Well, our tour is over: did you like it? I go back to Acqui with a bag of hazelnuts, two bottles of Barbera d’Asti, Robiola di Roccaverano and the memory of the overflowing camera.

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