Orto romano – The itinerary and the reserve
THE ITINERARY AND THE RESERVE
The footpath passes through the Special Reserve of Benevagienna. It connects the old town center with the archaeological site of the ancient Roman colony of Augusta Begiennorum. The reserve is located within the valley of the Tanaro river, on the edge of a large lowland planted with cereals. It dips along the Mondalavia creek and is characterized by small vineyards, orchards, hazelnut and poplar groves and mixed deciduous forests. However the real peculiarity of the area is the presence of white and black truffles.
Descending into the valley of the Mondalavia creek, take the old road to Lequio Tanaro, on the right bank of the river. The whole valley is characterized by outcrops of marl: sedimentary rocks composed by alternating sections of clay and carbonate, eroded by the river. Following the route you run alongside a field (1) originally used by the entire population to supply ice to the village, which was then kept in an ice-house at the foot of the castle walls. A little further on, past the waterfall (2), there are the remains of an old mill (3), which used the hydraulic energy produced by the current of the river. A white willow leads to the most wooded section of the path, where the valley narrows and a solitary mulberry recalls the past activity of breeding silkworms. You pass a collecting area for truffles, favored by the presence of oak, lime and hazel. Crossing the Mondalavia, along a wooden walkway, the route leaves the valley bottom and starts to climb up between hazelnut trees, oaks, bushes of privet and hawthorn. The route arrives back on the plateau, near the remains of the ancient Roman amphitheater (4), in the court of Cascina Ellena, where it has been recreated a Roman Ornamental Kitchen Garden (5), which connects to the archaeological route (6) that links you to the area where remains of the ancient city of Augusta Bagiennorum were brought to light.
The colony of Augusta Bagiennorum was founded at the beginning of the Roman Empire by Octavian Augustus, under a program for the settlement and the agricultural exploitation of the land. It was an area of strategic importance for the control of transit between the Po Valley, the valleys of the tributaries of the Po, the Alpine passes and the Ligurian coast. The Roman settlement extended over 20 hectares on the fertile plains of Roncaglia, in a large territory belonged to the pre-Roman tribes of Luguri Bagienni and bordered on the south-east by the valley of the Mondalavia river and, at north-west, by the hills that prelude at the Stura valley. The city of Augusta Bagiennorum had a flourishing life for at least three centuries, but with the fall of the Roman Empire, it was abandoned and became a sort of “hollow” in the open air for the retrieval of the material for the construction of the new town of Bene, localized in a more easily defensible area. Between the late ‘800 and early ‘900, the passionate historians Giuseppe Assandria and Giovanni Vacchetta conducted various archaeological campaigns in the area, which allowed them to identify the quadrangular Towers, the Forum, a Temple, the Civil Basilica, the Baths and the Aqueduct.
In the early 2000s, new excavations have revealed part of these buildings and expanded the visit tour, that from the amphitheater, crosses the theater complex and, along the fields, goes through the Forum area with the Civil Basilica, still almost completely to explore, and oversteps the intersection between decumanus maximum and one of the cardus maximum, reaching the sacred area and the remains of the podium of the temple.
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