Monferrato is a sub region of Piedmont featuring an endless series of hills which have been moulded through the centuries by laborious farming. Vineyards have always been the protagonists of Monferrato landscape. Asti vineyards have been well-known since Roman times and Pliny the Elder mentions them. Local farmers have played the role of great architects transforming this area with their gift for cultivation. Thanks to them excellent wines and harmonious landscapes form a perfect balance. Eighteenth- and nineteenth-century documents, such as land registers, give various proofs of a constantly well-tilled soil and well-disposed cultivations. Unfortunately, since 1950 the agricultural estates have been damaged by several economic and social factors which have caused a loss of identity and deterioration in the complex articulation of the historical landscape. The European Union by financing the uprooting of vineyards has favored further deterioration and abandonment of these areas. As a result the soil of high hills is exposed to such erosion that it might lead to the complete loss of any cultivation. From this extreme change arises the need for planning the landscape in order to be ready for new economic and commercial trends.
It is now essential to try and preserve historical forms of agriculture which have been accumulating technical knowledge and common culture. The aesthetic and figurative values of this kind of landscape can be fully assessed only if we understand the complexity of the factors which were involved in its growth. Thus agricultural planning in this area is quite a different matter from a garden: first of all it means realizing the need to integrate different factors establishing links between various points which can be relevant for future developments. After focusing the rules for correct restoration and management of agriculture on the hilly countryside, some solutions to the main problems have been devised and are being discussed. Three main hypotheses have been taken into account: a traditional-functional planning, a realistic though weak project and an experimental project, all of them related to the local resources and economic possibilities. New and different landscapes result from each choice, though each takes into account the overall situation. These three projects stem from a common source inasmuch as they share the awareness of respecting the “vocation” of the territory. Since the very beginnings of the history of agriculture, in Monferrato vineyards have been the optimum means of communication between farmers and nature and they are still the most suited to local resources. It is therefore advisable that similar territories maintain their own harmoniously conceived style. It is possible to renovate while still preserving the specific aspects of the land: only in such a way will the beauty of our landscapes not be lost.
Author: ALESSANDRO CARAMELLINO
Via Mazzucotelli 22 – 20138 Milano