The visit of the city starts from the City Hall, once residence of the Counts Lupi of Moirano, that later became property of the Jewish man Abraam Levi who donated it to the local Council in 1910 (today also home to the Tourist Information Centre—iat). In Piazza Levi is Palazzo Robellini a beautiful sixteenth century building built by Giovanni Antonio Robellini, later modified during the 18th century by the Dagna Sabina family, to whom we owe the staircase and exquisite halls. On the first floor is the art gallery whilst in the cellars is the Regional Enoteca Acqui “Terme & Vino” where all the region’s wines may be found, even though it is especially dedicated to the local wine Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG.
Opposite you may reach the adjacent Piazza San Francesco, with its nineteenth century la Rocca Fountain and Church dedicated to San Francesco, originating from the fifteenth but reconstructed during the middle of the 19th century. Opposite is Corso Italia, the main pedestrian street which leads to the Civic Tower and piazza della Bollente, where in this charming 19th century ambience, a natural hot spring called “The Bollente” gushes out at an amazing temperature of 74,5°C with a capacity of 560 litres per minute. In 1879 the aedicule shaped like a Greek Temple was constructed by the Engineer Ceruti wanted by the Mayor Giuseppe Saracco, to represent the city’s thermal heritage.
From here on the right you may follow via Scatilazzi, a little cobbled alley, where it is possible to admire the ruins of the ancient Roman theatre; then continue straight on, turn right until you reach Piazza della Conciliazione, heart of the old district known as the Pisterna surrounded by beautiful elegant buildings constructed between the 15th and 18th centuries. In the middle of the square is the Giuseppe Verdi open-air theatre where many summer performances take place; stay on the left, follow the stairs and you’ll reach the highest point of the historic centre, dominated by the Paleologi Castle, of medieval origin, which today houses the Archaeological Museum and Botanical Garden “Birdgarden”. A beautiful view extends over the city and to Villa Ottolenghi to the north.
From here, it is possible to follow a maze of alleys housing buildings of great architectural value, or you may follow Via Barone where you can admire the minor Seminary once Santa Caterina’s Monastery with its beautiful 16th century cloister, until you arrive in Piazza Duomo with the imposing Cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta. The Cathedral was consecrated in 1067 by Saint Guy/Guido, Bishop and Patron Saint of the city, a Romanesque building that has seen various changes throughout the centuries, but still retains of its original features part of the external walls, semi-circular apses transept, and the beautiful crypt with its unspoilt Romanesque characteristics. The façade, which has also been altered, is preceded by a seventeenth century atrium with twin columns and a valuable marmoreal portal, opera of the master mason Antonio Pilacorte engraved with the Cathedral’s history: The Assumption of Our Lady surrounded by the apostles, angels and symbols from the vegetable and animal kingdoms and the four Fathers of the Western Church represented in the lunette: from left to right: Saint Ambrogio, S. Girolamo, S. Gregorio and S. Agostino. On the right door jamb is Saint Guy/Guido holding the church consecrated to him in the palm of his hand, and on the left is Saint Maggiorino, the city’s first Bishop. Among the valuable works preserved inside is the Triptych of “Our Lady of Montserrat” dating from 1480, opera by the Spanish painter Bartolomeo Bermejo, in Latin known as “Rubeus.” In the middle it portrays Our Lady holding the Holy Baby looking at a tied goldfinch, and in the background is a building, probably the Montserrat Sanctuary. On the left shutter is the Holy Virgin, and below is Saint Francis receiving the stigmata, whereas on the right it portrays the “Purification” along with a very peculiar Saint Sebastian in a fashionable epoch dress, holding some arrows in his hands.
Afterwards you may continue your visit in via Verdi, a little alley to the left of the church, where on display in the garden at the “Jona Ottolenghi’s” nursing home is the bronze statue of the “Prodigal Son” a masterpiece by Arturo Martini, whereas in front of the Cathedral on the left-hand side is the Bishop’s House, a magnificent 15thC jewel, and opposite is the 18thC complex of the Major Seminary, built following the plan by Vittone.
At the bottom of Piazza Duomo, is the characteristic stairway of the Schiavia, overlooked by an archway from one of the gates of the old medieval walls, and just before on the left, in via Cardinal Raimondi is Casa Sigismondi, dating from the 16th C and Casa Marenco from the 15th C, whose fine courtyard still preserves two floors of open galleries, and on the right is via alla Bollente the old contrada dei Calderai.
Continue down the old stairway and go straight in via Mazzini once contrada Mercaili until you reach piazza Addolorata and the ancient Basilica dedicated to the Madonna Addolorata, constructed at the time of the first Bishop of Acqui, San Maggiorino, a beautiful Romanesque building built on the site of a pre-Christian cemetery church. Return on the main road, Corso Cavour, turn left, and after around 200 metres on the right hand side, on the corner with via Don Bosco is the Church of the Sacra Famiglia, built around 1904. It conserves different works of art such as the statues of the Sacred Family, a representation of Don Bosco and the altar dedicated to Santa Maria Mazzarello.
Return back to the Basilica and follow via Garibaldi that will bring you back onto Corso Italia, turn right and follow it until you reach Piazza Italia, where the impressive Grand Hotel Nuove Terme built in 1870 dominates the piazza, along with the Thermal Building of the Regie Thermae Acqui, and its modern beauty farm. On the left you may admire the Fountains of the Ninfee that descend down Corso Viganò, whereas from Piazza Italia follow Corso Bagni, and under the arcades on the right is the entrance to the archaeological site of the old Roman Baths, or rather, the remains of a large spa complex dating from Imperial times discovered in 1913 during the construction of the new arcades.
Continue towards the Bagni area (1km), and on the right hand-side of the Carlo Alberto bridge, you may admire the ruins of the Roman Aqueduct from Augustan times (I century AD). Along the Bormida river bank is a pleasant walking and cycling path, (4km return), an ideal walk to observe the river’s flora and fauna. Otherwise from the Carlo Alberto Bridge you may continue along Viale Acquedotto Romano and you’ll reach the large open-air Summer swimming pool, which up until the 1950s was the largest pool in Europe. Now you’ll find yourself surrounded by the lush green of the Bagni area, where you may admire the Antiche Terme Hotel dating from the 1600s which today houses the “Lago delle Sorgenti” Spa, in front is the modern Thermal establishment Regina and the Carlo Alberto establishment built in 1845.
The Fontefredda walk takes you to visit the neo-classical style temple where a cold spring of thermal water known as “Acqua Marcia” gushes out at 19°C, particular for its strong smell of sulphur. Opposite is the road that leads to the hillside localities of Lussito (2km) where you may visit the Church dedicated to Nostra Signora della Neve and Ovrano with the beautiful Romanesque church dedicated to the Saints Nazzario and Celso (6km), surrounded by woods and vineyards. From Piazzale Pisani, near the Regina Thermae, it is possible to follow the “Brooms Trail”, a panoramic path that takes you up Mount Stregone and Mount Marino, signed with the n° “531-531A & 537”- 6km long, of medium difficulty (3hrs walk) that offers a wonderful view overlooking the city.
In the nearby locality of Moirano, on the opposite side of the city, is the Church dedicated to Santa Maria.