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So, Ok, But, Well, Why Acqui Terme?
If I have been asked one question, over and over, it would be this one. My answer is, of course, subjective and completely biased. I think Acqui Terme is the nicest city in Italy.
Let me tell you what I think feels so right, so precious and so unforgettable about this small jewel of a city. It starts with some very deep roots in history.
Piemonte always gets the rap that there is no Renaissance art here. And that’s very true. If you want Renaissance Art, go to Florence. Don’t come here.
But history is something Acqui Terme is steeped in. The hot, thermal waters of this area were discovered over two thousand one hundred and fifty years ago by the Romans and their marauding partners in crime, the Ligurian Statielli, who crossed over the Maritime Alps and thought, okay, this is hot water. That’s a good thing. They set up camp and proceeded to make Acqui Statielli (the name at the time) a center for trade, which was of strategic importance, since it protected those mountains from tribes coming down from the northern plains.
Between the second century BC and the third century AD, many important structures were completed in Acqui Statielli – an amphitheater (no longer existing), ancient baths (still can be visited as a historical ruin), and the most important aqueduct in Piemonte, a portion of which can still be seen on the outskirts of the city.
After the fall of the Empire, the city was abandoned, but was revived in the fourth century as an economically and politically strategic post. In the sixth century, it became a part of the kingdom of Lombardia and became an independent commune in the twelfth century. In 1278, the city was annexed by the Marchese of Monferrat (the region would be permanently named after the Marchese – hence it is called the Monferrato) until it was taken over by the Savoy in the 17th century.
From that time until the period shortly before the Second World War, Acqui Terme was a destination thermal spa city for residents of the area and beyond. In Mussolini’s time, the thermal facility was declared the Property of the People and fell into complete financial ruin and utter disrepair, from which it did not fully recover until the 1980’s. Over 120 million Euros have been invested in the city over the last twenty years, rebuilding and renewing every aspect of its infrastructure – from the facades, to the thermal spa facilities, to the Pavilion housing the springs themselves. It is perhaps one of the most authentically restored cities in this part of Italy – with a great deal of attention paid to original plans and intentions. One small historic amphitheater has been completely dug out and restored, and the Amphitheater G. Verdi, located on the city’s upper Piazza, houses local, national and international performances during the summer.
When we first came to Piemonte and decided to look for property, we set up house on a regular basis at the Relais dell’Osso in the historic center of town. It is a small, plain yet eclectic, strange yet comforting bed and breakfast. There, after a day of seeing every imaginable kind of nightmarish house scenario, we would be fed by Lele and Carla in their adjacent restaurant, whose service and food is a bit inconsistent, but always worth the risk. With only four tables in the winter, it can be pretty personal experience. A winter evening at La Loggia Ristorante can go something like this:
Lele comes out, and presents something in a basket. This can be anything from a cut of veal to huge porcini to some tomatoes. He proceeds to tell you what is going to happen to this product and retreats to the kitchen. You know at this moment this is NOT the night to order from the menu. That would be a mistake and would make the very audible discussion in the kitchen get worse.
Something completely unrelated yet totally delicious comes out of the kitchen. Everyone is confused and by this time all the guests are talking to each other.
Someone starts to play the piano. Singing can now be heard in the kitchen.
You pay at the end much less than you had feared and Lele has trouble adding up the bill correctly.
Using this quirky place in Acqui as our base, we struck out and saw most of Piemonte. The thing was, we really had no desire, none at all, to stay in any other town in Piemonte. WHY in the world were we looking in the far flung corners of Cuneo Province and Biella? Acqui had become home before we even found a home.
So, here, in a nutshell, is the Acqui Terme Top Ten List:
Balalah is our most stylish shop, our hippest cafe and our main internet stop
Wine and Cheese
But then again, don’t take my word for it. Come and visit Acqui Terme yourself and see what you think.
Just don’t expect any Renaissance Art!!
© Diana Strinati Bar, 2009. Do not republish without permission.
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