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If travel is searching,
Italy is finding yourself

Upper Monferrato: a Sunday drive in Val Bormida

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!


Some Benedictine monks settled in this place shortly after the year thousand and began cultivating and building a monastery. Now, this no longer exists, or better has become a beautiful medieval castle remodeled over the centuries. It retains its primitive structure with towers and a very powerful, but a seventeenth-century facade and stunning Renaissance loggia have been added, making 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, connected to the castle by a rare arch bridge


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 a similar one in Castelnuovo Calcea), a very scenic ramp leading to the village’s entrance door. 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’s bench) inviting passers to admire the landscape and look at a much larger bench 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 paths net is 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 by the evening, and then I will reach some places touched by the route by car.

We continue towards BubbioLoazzolo, famous for its wines, then the villages of CessoleVesime, and we see the tower of San Giorgio Scarampi in the distance. It is the territory of the “Langhe Astigiane,” rugged, with high reliefs, offering beautiful glimpses of erosive phenomena caused by the river in the tuff soil: the badlands. 


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 at 759 meters, but if we want to go even higher and see a fantastic panorama, we can climb for free on the ladder of the tower, 30 meters high, which is in the town center, in a shady garden (do you have the wide angle?). The building has a solid, circular base and was a sighting point and defensive tool. For this reason, the entrance door is seven meters from the ground, and to enter it 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 castle’s windows, you can see the sixteenth-century church, whose facade could have been designed by Bramante. The tavern in the square is also dedicated to Bramante, where I offer you an excellent hazelnut ice cream, a must in this area.

The fundamental 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. The cheese is delicious and can be purchased on 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, the scent of gorse, and cinematographic paths

I 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 takes you back in time. Then, 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? So I go back to Acqui with a bag of hazelnuts, two bottles of Barbera d’Asti, Robiola di Roccaverano and the full memory of my camera.

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