I travel because each time I come back richer: I am literally hoarding life and grasp it in its most varied forms. Sights, roads, smells, colours, flavours... my senses are my antennae.
I like to picture myself as a bee flitting from flower to flower, loading up on pollen and turning it into honey, a sweet source of energy for the months ahead, until the next journey… Like a honeybee, when I find something beautiful, I get very excited, tell people about it and recommend it to everyone I meet. Like a bee, I know that as I flutter from one place to another I will leave a trace of my passage, of what I have collected over the years, thus helping, in my own way, to spread some microscopic particles of knowledge and I can picture a richer, wiser, more flowery world.
I am travelling with friends, and this weekend we have been inspired by Marco's passions. He is an archaeologist, our Indiana Jones of Mugello, and he wants to take us on a journey to discover the imprint of Republican Rome in the area south of the River Po.
I see you are puzzled. Does it ring any bells when I say Alba Pompeia, Augusta Bagiennorum, Hasta and Pollentia? Not yet? OK, I'll just bring it up to date. What if I say Alba, Benevagienna, Asti, Pollenzo, ... truffles, wine and UNESCO landscapes? A few magic words to identify our tour destination: Langhe Monferrato Roero, famous for its great wines and gastronomic traditions and less so, and quite wrongly, for its history and vast artistic and cultural attractions.
We book just a few things, we will play it by the ear and be guided by our expert. For an overnight stay we choose a farmhouse surrounded by nature and schedule a visit to Underground Alba. This takes us on a discovery of a Roman city trapped in the depths of the old medieval town and which is known today as the capital of truffles and other gastronomic delicacies. We make a stop to visit the Eusebio Museum which, with its wealth of finds, tells us all about the history, civilisation, science and nature of the Langhe.
We get to Pollenzo and here a colleague of Marco welcomes us and takes us on a tour of the Roman city, which is not easy for the untrained eye. We also enter some private houses where the residents are proud to show off the treasures they keep in their cellars. Today Pollenzo is well-known all over the world as the home of Slow Food and the University of Gastronomic Sciences. A stop at the prestigious Banca del Vino (Wine Bank) is therefore a must. Here you can taste those nectars which seem to have worked so well also in Roman times, and we can choose from our menu of experiences the one which seems most suited to our sensitivity: a winefulness trail. A journey towards awareness through the aromas of wine. It is hard to describe, you just have to try it.
Next stop is... Bra with Palazzo Traversa and then we look for the bar where Giovanni Arpino used to go and where we can enjoy a rich aperitif with less awareness but with the desire to make the most of these days. In Benevagienna, there is the greatest evidence of the Roman influence in this area, a beautiful amphitheatre which was brought back to light after an extensive and careful excavation. We also visit Palazzo Lucerna in Rorà, which houses the Municipal Archaeological Museum.
We spend the last day in Asti. Like Alba, also this town boasts a glorious medieval past but in its depths, within its walls and the Torre Rossa (Red Tower), it speaks to us of more ancient times.
There is the Domus Romana, the Crypt of St. Anastasius, the Paleontological Museum but the ultimate treat awaits us in the harmonious dimension of the monumental complex of San Pietro in Consavia. Here, very few people know this, there is a small archaeological museum (which will be moved soon). If we are lucky we should meet the “lady of the water lilies”, the Egyptian mummy who had her face recently revealed. A charming mysterious story surrounds this mummy, which arrived from Ancient Egypt and was brought to Asti by the patron Leonetto Ottolenghi. Thanks to a CT scan and forensic techniques it has been possible to recreate its three-dimensional image. A mysterious woman who has lived nine centuries before Christ and travelled through time, and whose rare tomb decorated with floral motifs tells us about a distant past. We do not know her name, but she must have been a beautiful young woman. The sarcophagus shows her features, the sweet expression of her big eyes, and she is surrounded by white and blue water lilies. Here come the flowers again, so I can go home feeling happy. Just like a bee, I will be buzzing around telling my friends and acquaintances about this repository of knowledge, colours and flavours.
Just like a bee, I will be buzzing around telling my friends and acquaintances about this repository of knowledge, colours and flavours.