Strevi is only one town, but it seems like two. Divided into upper and lower halves by the state highway chopping through like the swing of an axe, this small center just a few miles away from Acqui Terme announces itself with the force of its castle and high ramparts that flank the city walls, encircled by thriving forests, orchards, and vineyards.
The lower part is composed of a spiderweb of streets and courtyards, in the center of which is erected the Fraternity of the Holy Trinity. The low houses with their red shingle roofs and the absence of stores make this a place of tranquility. Here are the seats of prestigious wine estates, like Vigne Regale near the train station, or Cantina del Moscato on the state highway leading towards Acqui.
During the month of June in the lower village, the Sagra Septebrium is held, a festival famous for the quality of its Moscato and, for many inhabitants, one of the most important dates of the year. The festival’s origins go far back to a legend concerning the ancient roots of the town’s name “Strevi:” Septebrium, which derives from joining two Latin words: septe (sette, or “seven,” in Italian) and ebrium (ebbri, or “inebriated,” in Italian). The “seven” in this case would be the seven founding brothers who were passionate wine enthusiasts. The seven brothers also appear on Strevi’s banner as seven glasses of wine. The festival’s program outlines mainly tastings of the territory’s best products, in first place the Moscato Passito della Valle Bagnario, which recently obtained a DOC label and became a presidio of Slow Food.
Going along Via Garibaldi, begin climbing uphill until you reach the small set of steps labeled Fabrizio Porta after a town doctor and hero in one of Strevi’s most important pages of history: the salvation of the town’s population against the French invaders in 1799, during which the inhabitants chased the invaders out of their town. The village had been sacked and partly burned as punishment for its rebellion against this transalpine dominating power and many were executed by firing squad, among them Porta.
Continuing your visit, cross the state highway 30 and continue towards the upper town section: you’ll see an uphill street parallel to the ramparts and the surrounding walls that define the town. It’s a steep climb up, but it’s shaded by enormous horse chestnut trees. Pass through the door in the red brick arch and arrive in Piazza Matteotti, which immediately offers a view of the parish church of St. Michael the Archangel, the most important church of the whole town. It’s a very particular work of architecture, inserted into the town walls and erected under the Marquise of Monferrato in the 15th century. A great tower is, interestingly, incorporated in its apse. When it was restructured during the 17th century, the church assumed the Baroque aspect it displays today.
In the same piazza in front of the parish church sits the castle of the Marchesi Serra, today the Municipal building. With medieval roots, the castle was almost completely restructured in the first decade of the 17th century. Admire the impressive stone staircase and the very long loggia, upon which sits the panoramic viewpoint. From here, in one sweeping field of view, see the lower part of Strevi and its valley with vineyards and orchards stretching out in all directions.
Passing through Piazza Matteotti, Via Seghini Strambi leads to Piazza Vittorio Emanuele by way of a curious bridge, beneath which you can observe an ancient moat, in the past excavated to provide security for the town’s inhabitants. Today, it’s revamped as a bocce playing field. Piazza Vittorio Emanuele is the hotspot for Strevi residents of the upper half of town, where commercial and artisanal storefronts put their best face forward, giving passers-by the chance to taste excellent grissini (thin, crunchy breadsticks) and all-almond amaretti cookies from the Pesce Bakery; or try the famed Moscato from Marenco, one of the oldest and most important wineries in the area.
Back on the road for Acqui, don’t miss a visit to “Da Lia e Piera,” where you can taste “queen of Strevi” fresh pasta and try Moscato from the wonderful wine bar Enoteck House. Or, observe some bella vistas from the high part of town as you leave the windy countryside by following small uphill streets and losing yourself among the hills. It’s also worth mentioning the chapel of Pineto (see the itinerary), a small church from the 1900s. It rises up on the peak of a hill blanketed in vineyards of Moscato that dominate the entire valley.