Vinchio, in the feud of the Marquises where history and legend blend with the best fruits that the earth produces.
Vinchio stands on a group of hills between Langhe and Monferrato, with the concentric marked by three roads of Roman origin (Ramaudio, Luparia and Fonsmagna).
It extends over a mainly hilly area of 9,29 square kilometers, on which about 600 inhabitants live.
The altitude is 269 meters above sea level.
From the historical center, once dominated by the Castle belonging to the Marquis Scarampi del Carretto, the panorama is truly spectacular: a succession of hills, on which the vineyards climb, leaving occasionally emerge groups of farms that seem to emerge from the ground like mushrooms.
Davide Lajolo, a politician and writer of Vinchio origin, remembers it like this: "In the winter mine is the town of mud, as in spring it is the town of peaches and cherry trees in bloom, in summer it is the town of the lizards and of the hares, in autumn the town of the grapes, of the black vintages of the Barbera ".
Today the houses have been renovated and embellished, the stables have almost completely disappeared and very often the courtyards are no longer a service for agriculture, but have turned into flower gardens of geraniums and oleanders.
The woods of locusts, chestnut trees and oaks have captured space for the vines, more selected for quality production. But the vineyard still characterizes the landscape and the local economy, so much so that the area under vines reaches a total of almost 250 hectares.
The tourist who reaches Vinchio will discover a gentle horizon of jugs and basins, a green alternation of vineyards and woods, perhaps identical to what they saw the eyes of the ferocious Saracens exterminated by Aleramo on these hills more than a thousand years ago.
In this magical place, history and legend are mixed with the best things that the earth produces and stimulate the imagination and the palate of those who spend a weekend discovering its treasures.
You can taste the fine local products (especially wines, truffles and asparagus), enjoy the natural heritage of the Val Sarmassa Nature Reserve, participate in the food and wine events that take place during the year and admire, in addition to a striking view that ranges up to the Alpine arc, the historical buildings that testify to the millenarian farming culture.
It is 23 km from Asti, the provincial capital.
The hills of Vinchio are medium geological formations of the Ligurian - Piedmontese tertiary basin, rich in sands, marls and fossil deposits, emerged from the ancient ocean of the Tethys in the Piedmont Pliocene (7 million years ago) and now home to vineyards and woods Monferrato stain.
The man makes his appearance on the lands presumably emerged in the Neolithic (5-6 thousand years BC).
At Vinchio in Bricco dei Saraceni, a lithic ax is found (inventoried in the museum of antiquities in Turin) probably belonging to the Celts - Ligurian tribe. The same people that Tacitus in the story of the Roman occupation of Acqui, will call Stazielli.
Already at that time, as well as to pastoralism and hunting they devoted themselves to the cultivation of the vine.
The Roman conquerors traced in the area a dense network of roads that, in addition to bringing in the Gauls, connected the centers of Tortona, Acqui, Asti and Alba. The ancient name Viginti derives from the distance between Vinchio and Alba of 20 Roman miles.
Century after century.
The first news of the tradition on Vinchio date back to the year 935 d. C., when Aleramo, Count of Acqui, defeated the Saracens on the homonymous hill, dropping them forever from the Monferrato. The hypothesis is supported by A. Muratori and by De Canis (the latter hypothesizes the derivation of the name Vinchio from "Vinci", a victory precisely on the Saracens).
The oldest document that speaks of Vinchio is dated 948 AD, when the son of Count Alberto di Asti grants, in exchange for possessions in Agliano, the "Basilica Santi Pancrati in Castro Vinci" and some land belonging to our Castle, to the Longobard Bishop of Asti Brusnengo.
In a document of 1125 Vinchio, with Mombercelli and other castles of the Val Tiglione, appears in the Committee of Loreto (Costigliole d'Asti) governed by Bonifacio del Vasto Marquis of the Aleramica dynasty.
After a century of struggle the lands of the Committee return to Asti even if the Pievi (churches) will remain at the bishop's curia of Pavia as confirmed by the documents of Pope Innocent III (1216) and Honorius III (1217).
From the rich documentation of the Codex Astensis, Vinchio is in effect a Municipality, powerful frontier land disputed by Asti and Alessandria, with its Consuls and Lords: Manfredus Monacus, Vitalis De Viginti, Rogerius De Viginti Traversagni, etc ... who have possessions in Castelnuovo Calcea, Cortiglione and Vaglio.
In 1313 the castle was occupied by the Solaro (Guelphs) who in the following year rushed to the aid of the inhabitants attacked, at the Bastita, by the hordes of Bastardo di Castelnuovo fleeing, but is captured by the astute leader Passerino della Torre, imprisoned and executed in prisons of the city of Asti.
When the Solaro family fell into disgrace in 1329, the noble Ghibelline from Asti, Antonio Scarampi, obtained the investiture from the Emperor Ludovico il Bavaro of the territories of Montaldo, Vinchio and Mombercelli where, as early as 1318, he had acquired possessions. Vinchio will belong to the third line of Antonio's family in the following centuries.
As a matter of fact Tommaso Scarampi marries Anna del Carretto, who brings the fund of Prunetto as a dowry and gives rise to the Scarampi - Pruney dynasty. This family, originally Ghibelline, will give to the Church in the following centuries different prelates: the bishops of Compiègne (France), of Acqui, of Como and of Naples.
Politically, culturally and economically, Vinchio, together with the Municipalities of Mombercelli, Castelnuovo Calcea, Belveglio, Rocca d'Arazzo and Rocchetta Tanaro had for three centuries a history of itself compared to the other municipalities of the Asti and Monferrato areas.
In fact, on January 27, 1387, the marriage contract between Valentina, daughter of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, and Luigi d'Orleans was drafted in Paris.
Among other things, the bride brought the lands of Asti (all listed in the contract) except Vinchio, Mombercelli, Castelnuovo Calcea, Belveglio, Rocca d'Arazzo and Rocchetta Tanaro which remained "Domain of Milan" under the name of imperial feuds, lands of the Emperor (Charles V of Spain and his successors and then the Hapsburg Emperors).
Thus, the destinies of these six lands are divided for three centuries by the remaining lands of Asti, which have known the Savoy domination since the 16th century.
These lands in addition to paying Spanish protection were often victims of looting by the Savoy troops.
In 1635 the bandit Stefano Re, in the name of the Duke Vittorio Amedeo, plundered Vinchio and Mombercelli, fired Castelnuovo Calcea - since then called Castelnuovo Bruciato (Burned) - and of those people who sided with the Spaniards was a real massacre.
On November 7, 1654 the French wintered in Rocchetta, at Belveglio and occupied Vinchio, returning each year until 1658, so much so that the proverb came to an end which was reported again by Brofferio "Ch'a sia Fransa ch'a sia Spagna a l'è sempr l 'istesa bagna - whether it is France or Spain is always the same thing".
The dispute was composed in 1736 with the Vienna treaty that saw the Hapsburg surrender the so-called "Imperial feuds" to the constituting Kingdom of Sardinia.
Vinchio will be part of the Department of Alessandria, District (or Province) of Asti, Canton (or District) of Mombercelli.
In 1802 Asti became the capital of the Tanaro Department (which also includes Vinchio), but only until 1806, when Napoleone Bonaparte suppressed it by aggregating its lands to the Department of Marengo (Alessandria), which then assumed the name of the Province.
Only in 1936 Benito Mussolini will draw on the map of Piedmont the famous "bunch of grapes" on the territories of Cuneo and Alessandria, giving rise to the Province of Asti of which Vinchio will be part.
After September 8, 1943, Vinchio actively participates in the Liberation struggle and is the seat of a group headed by the VIII Garibaldi Division of the "Ulisse" commander of Venice (Davide Lajolo).
He coordinates military operations to stem the German-Fascist offensives between Asti and Alessandria and participates in the Popular Government Council of the Republic of Lower Monferrato (proclaimed in Agliano on November 5, 1944) including 40 free Municipalities on the southern bank of the Tanaro.
Food and wine and typical products.
When the sea withdrew from these valleys the first "Bricco" that saw the sun were, probably, those of the highest hills of Vinchio and Noche. Then, millions of years ago, in the deepest gorges of the Sarmassa, fin whales and dolphins chased each other with their shiny belly, immense bottoms of sea fans.
But up there beyond the line of water that divided the sky from the earth, the highest Bricchi, Montedelmare, Bricco dell'Olmo, Bricco dei Saraceni, were already islands that absorbed extraordinary energies and moods from the sun.
And it is perhaps for this reason that even today, all the things that this land produces are so rich in flavors and aromas, a concentration of unique and unrepeatable tastes.
The wines, for example, masterpieces with a strong personality, well-structured, full of colors and enveloping aromas. A magical result of the work of the winemakers of the winery, which is very similar in character, but also of the optimal geographical situation, the climate, the soil of the vineyards.
The following DOC wines are produced: Barbera d'Asti Superiore, Barbera d'Asti Superiore "Nizza", Barbera d'Asti, Barbera del Monferrato, Cortese of Alto Monferrato, Freisa d'Asti, Grignolino d'Asti, Monferrato Bianco, Monferrato Dolcetto, Monferrato Freisa, Monferrato Rosso, Piemonte Barbera, Piemonte Bonarda, Piemonte Brachetto, Piemonte Chardonnay, Piemonte Grignolino, Piemonte Moscato.
The truffles, then, perhaps the most fascinating our valleys and hills reserve for man: a mysterious origin, an indefinable flavor, a penetrating aroma that awakens the senses and ancestral memories. Those that are found here, and that end up on the tables of the most famous restaurants in Italy, have the crown, a kind of diadem, almost to emphasize their origin of nobility.
Finally, the "Saraceno" asparagus, the third of our jewels; from the beautiful deep green color, fleshy, compact, rich in organoleptic qualities, very tasty, they take their name from the Briccio dei Saraceni, which produces more.
For many years, Vinchio has dedicated a festival to the Asparagus of the Saracen which has now become a classic event.
The event, organized by the Pro Loco, takes place on the first Sunday of May and on that occasion in addition to buying the delicious vegetable from local producers and can enjoy the lunch prepared by the talented chefs who offer a rich menu based asparagus and other typical local dishes.
Asparagus is an appreciated food, prepared more often as a dish in its own right than as a side dish. The asparagus are boiled and can be tasted in many ways: parmigiana, simply dipped in oil, with special sauces or with the addition of eggs (- 'spors mariò - marinated asparagus).
To be seen.
There are four museums in Vinchio, one of which, the Peasant Museum which illustrates the cycle of work in the vineyards, is outdoors.
Of the other museums, two are housed in the premises of the former City Hall of Vinchio: the Davide Lajolo Museum - Vinchio is my nest (Museo Davide Lajolo - Vinchio è il mio nido) is dedicated to the life and works of Davide Lajolo, writer, journalist, poet and partisan (see also the half-length made in his memory), and the House of Memory, of the Resistance and of the Deportation (Casa della Memoria, della Resistenza e della Deportazione), dedicated to the memory of the partisan Resistance against the Nazi-Fascists.
Also, worth a visit is the Birthplace and Museum of the Venerable Brother Teodoreto, founder of the technical school Casa di Carità Arti e Mestieri, beatified in 1990.
Of great interest are also the religious buildings present in the municipal area, including the parish church dedicated to the evangelist Saint Marco, eighteenth century, the Church of Confraternity of Santissima Trinità (XVI century), and the parish church of Noche called San Defendente.
In addition, many intersections are marked by small votive chapels, which with their simple architectural lines testify to the profound religious spirit that permeates the wine community.
In the footsteps of the hilly paths that Davide Lajolo used to frequent, three itineraries have been identified that develop in a ring giving way to grasp the suggestions of the landscape and to retrace the great themes of the relationship between the Author and the territory:
the itinerary "I bricchi del Barbera" connects Vinchio to the hamlet of Noche passing through the bricco of Saint Michele;
the itinerary "I boschi dei Saraceni" develops in the green valle del Giardino going down to the Tiglione and then return to the village, along the ridge of the Bricco dei Saraceni;
the itinerary "Il mare verde" develops towards the Cascine in the direction of Cortiglione, to reach the woods of the Val Sarmassa, a nature reserve that extends over an area of over 230 hectares between the towns of Vinchio, Vaglio Serra and Incisa Scapaccino.
The Reserve includes hills and valleys with forests of chestnuts and oaks, of which a secular specimen, called "La Ru", is a natural monument of the Reserve.
La Ru, a centuries-old oak and natural monument of the Val Sarmassa Reserve, is a place that was made magical by the writer and journalist Davide Lajolo.
Lajolo recovered the ancient legend of Clelia and Ariosto, dating back to the times of the plague of 1630, in which two young lovers were looking for escape to the epidemic by climbing on the great oak.