The present name originates from the Latin one Aquae Statiellae, attributed by the Romans to the city they founded in the lands of the Liguri Statielli. The capital of the Liguri Statielli, Caristum, was seized and destroyed by the Romans lead by the Console Marco Popilio Lenate in 173 BC. The conquest led to the progressive Romanization of the territory and its inhabitants and the birth of a new city, Aquae Statiellae, built around the natural thermal waters .
Due to its strategic position and the abundance of the thermal springs, Rome decided to transform it in one of the most important spa cities in the north of Italy. After the year 109 BC. with the construction of the via Aemilia Scauri, that joined Dertona (Tortona) to Vada Sabatia (Vado Ligure), the city became an important centre of commerce and an administrative district. The importance of this road link remained constant throughout the centuries. Once it became a Municipium Romanum, the city began to flourish economically and socially, until the 2nd century AD. This is confirmed by Latin historians that quoted Acqui and its Spas, in fact Plinio recalls them in his Naturalis Historia among the cities “founded by waters”.
The visit starts from the highest and most panoramic part of the historic centre, the Paleologi Castle of medieval origins, that today houses the Archaeologic Museum where precious iron-age, Roman and late-medieval ruins brought to light from many excavations in the city are preserved. Inside the castle grounds is a little natural oasis, the botanic garden called the Birdgarden, where a beautiful panoramic view extends over the city and towards Villa Ottolenghi to the north. From the castle you may reach the characteristic piazza della Conciliazione heart of the Pisterna borough surrounded by beautiful buildings dating from the 14th and 18th centuries. Continue until you reach via Scatilazzi, a little cobbled alley, where you may admire the ruins of Aquae Statiellae’s ancient theatre, that dates from imperial times, brought to light at the end of the 1990s. It took advantage of the hill’s natural slope and faced the piazza below where the stage was also situated, whose ruins are today hidden under the modern buildings. Some of the spectators seats were cut directly into the hill’s rocky basement, joined by entrance staircases of which some relics are still visible. The building must have created a beautiful monumental scenario along with the Bollente thermal spring and the bathing complex next to it that used its waters. From here you’ll arrive in piazza della Bollente: where in this charming nineteenth century ambience, a natural hot spring of sulphur-bromine-iodine thermal water called “the Bollente” gushes out at a temperature of nearly 75°C with a capacity of 560 litres per minute surrounded by an aedicule shaped like a Greek Temple, built in 1879 by the Architect Ceruti, requested by the mayor Giuseppe Saracco to evidence the importance of the thermal spring. Today it represents the city’s main monument. This piazza was once the Jewish Ghetto. On display under the arcades is a piece of Roman mosaic paving, brought to light at the end of the 19th century during excavations in the piazza. Continue under the Civic tower known as the tower “without foundations”, and you’ll arrive in piazza San Francesco, and the adjacent piazza Abramo Levi, where the City Hall is located, and on the corner with corso Roma it is possible to admire the ruins of a Roman fountain. It was brought to light during the excavations in the 1980s; a rectangular shaped structure formed by stone slabs fixed by metallic braces, dating from the beginning of imperial times (I-II century AD) originally supplied with water carried by the grand aqueduct, through lead tubing (fistula), still preserved today. The fountain stood next to a home (domus) where the ruins of the exterior walls are still visible, alongside a road located at the centre of the Roman city, not far from the forum.
From here continue along corso Roma, go uphill in piazza San Guido, left turn in via Cassino and you’ll reach the ruins of a Roman artisan workshop discovered in the early 1980s destined to the production of ceramic vases. It was made up of six rooms (in one the remains of an oven were recovered), distributed around a central courtyard with a well equipped with a stone well-curb. The building with its portico overlooked a cobbled street, situated along the ancient via for Hasta (Asti), on the boundary of the old urban centre and dates back to the I-II century AD. It was probably used for a long time, until the beginning of the medieval period.
Return back down to corso Italia and continue until you reach piazza Italia and go towards corso Bagni; under the arcades on the right you may visit the ruins of a large spa complex dating from imperial times, discovered in 1913 during the construction of a building next to the Grand Hotel Nuove Terme, that consist of a spacious pool for hot water (calidarium) originally covered by marble slabs, surrounded by some rooms heated by the use of a hypocaust, an under floor heating system. The water for the functioning of the system was carried directly through a conduit from the Bollente spring.
The thermal building, together with the nearby amphitheatre discovered in the 1960s, occupied an area in the outskirts of the Roman town of Aquae Statiellae, external to the inhabited centre but easy to reach via the Via Aemilia Scauri.
The Roman city had a great expansion, almost the same size as it is today. Archaeological research has restored the image of a wonderful monumental city, with a Forum (via Cavour/piazza Addolorata), Spa Centres and baths (piazza Bollente and corso Bagni), a Theatre (via Scatilazzi), an Amphitheatre (via Monteverde), artisan centres (via Cassino) and the imposing Aqueduct on the banks of the river Bormida. The numerous ruins from the pre-Roman, Roman and middle ages are today preserved at the Archaeological Museum housed in the Paleologi Castle.