Our journey through the land of Moscato and Barbera d’Asti continues. After stopping at Santo Stefano Belbo and Nizza Monferrato, our trip next goes to the Sarmassa Valley, heart of Barbera d’Asti, and Acqui Terme, land of the legendary Brachetto.
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THIRD STOP, SARMASSA VALLEY
After visiting Nizza Monferrato, a pleasant stop is the Sarmassa Valley, a special nature reserve whose name probably comes from the Sarmati tribe that lived here in ancient times. The park was instituted by the Piedmont Region in 1993, later enlarged, and today encompasses a territory of over 230 hectares within the municipalities of Vinchio, Vaglio Serra, and Incisa Scapaccino, some of the best zones for producing Barbera d’Asti.
Once entirely covered in forestland, today the territory grows with vineyards, orchards, and crops. For those wine lovers that wish to see some of the most prized vineyards of Barbera, we suggest following an itinerary dedicated to the cru of the most renowned wines of Asti territory. The route, named “I bricchi del Barbera” or “The peaks of Barbera,” connects Vinchio to the frazione of Noche and to the top of the San Michele hill, giving its hikers a panorama of rolling hills that is worthy of poetry. Along the route, which also crosses natural truffle-hunting grounds in the cool valley of Roeto, you can also follow along with the pages and places of a great author born in this area: Davide Lajolo. Writer, politician, and journalist, Lajolo was born in 1912 in Vinchio, to which he has dedicated many memorable pages.
The Sarmassa Valley is one of the places that Davide Lajolo chose to write about to describe the magic of Monferrato, its “sea of green,” today recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage as part of the Piedmont Vineyard Landscapes of Langhe-Roero and Monferrato.
BONUS STOP – ACQUI TERME
On the border of the province of Alessandria is a stop that cannot be passed by: Acqui Terme, a true “watershed city” to which the roads of many towns in the mountains and hills lead, like streams to a lake. In this zone of the Alto Monferrato, a land rich in untouched nature, greenery, wines, and of course natural springs (for which the town is named), the impressive architecture of the past is still well-preserved. Just think of the castle of the Paleologians, the grandiose basilica of Saint Peter with its origins in early Christianity, the 11th century cathedral of San Guido dedicated to Assunta that faces the 15th century bishop’s palace, and finally, the houses and palaces with a truly dramatic appearance.
For millennia, mysterious springs have bubbled up from enormous subterranean caverns and, warm with vapors, flow up into the heart of the city. At a point beyond the bridge of Carlo Alberto, in mud craters called “the ancient thermal lakes,” people once came in droves to cure their gout and arthritis. Acqui Terme is, in fact, known as “la Bollente” or “the Boiling,” named after a hot spring that bubbles up at 75°C in the center of the city; it is a nationally important place, seat of a famous spa and other structures that use the geothermal energy and natural hot mud baths for healing.
The vapors of the Bollente mingle with the aromas of good wine. The most famous wine made in this area is Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG, a sweet, red, aromatic wine that is naturally effervescent. The brachetto grape is cultivated in the gentle hills of the Alto Monferrato, an area known for cultivating this variety since ancient times.