Pollenzo, amidst history and taste
Bra covers an extensive area featuring many hamlets, an integral part of the city fabric. On one side, the road runs towards the hills of the Roero, along the ridge of the Rocche, to enter the many villages in this part of the territory. On the other side, it stretches towards the Cuneo plain, with the ever-present chain of the Alps in the background.
But the biggest surprise for visitors is the Pollenzo reserve, a small village on the road to the Langhe. Just 5 km from Bra, the centre is worth an unhurried visit, to immerse oneself in a history that goes way back in time.
Ancient Pollentia, this is the name of the village in Roman times, was the largest inhabited settlement between Alba Pompeia and Augusta Bagiennorum (today's Bene Vagienna) and preserves evidence of the Roman amphitheatre on which the ancient concentric design of houses in the heart of the village is built. Strolling around, walking past the houses, visitors can get a glimpse of the ancient structure of the village, while moving to Palazzo Traversa, in the centre of Bra, significant traces of this period can be found.
Pollenzo is certainly also worth a visit for the neo-Gothic albertine revival that affected the village from 1762, when Pollenzo became property of the House of Savoy. In 1832, the King bought the Castle of Pollenzo and embarked on a radical modernisation of the urban fabric of the village, by involving in the works some of the most prominent artists of the time from Pelagio Pelagi to Ernesto Mellano to Xavier Kurten for the park. This resulted in what we can enjoy today: the square, the Church of San Vittore, the Castle, the Tower, the Park and the Agenzia (Agency). This last building was strongly desired by the King, whose aim was to manage the various agricultural activities of the royal house and carry out groundbreaking experiments in the agricultural field. Unfortunately, during the flood of '94, the park suffered some serious damage and is still being restored..
While the park and castle are now private properties, this is not the case for the Agency, which has been revived thanks to Slow Food, which has taken a chance on the future here by investing in education. In fact, this small village is enlivened by the vitality of students from all over the world, ready to discover the secrets of food thanks to the Università di Scienze Gastronomiche (University of Gastronomic Sciences). Next to, or we should say literally underneath the university premises, is the Banca del Vino (Wine Bank), an innovative tour among the labels of the most renowned wines of Langhe Roero and the whole of Italy. It is no coincidence that it is located in the cellars of the old Agency where Staglieno, the royal oenologist, laid the foundations for the vinification of Piedmontese red wines.
Last but not least, Pollenzo has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 as part of the Royal Residences circuit. Definitely a must to be included in any travel itinerary.
Text by Pietro Giovannini
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Point of interest along the way
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II
Piazza Vittorio Emanuele II