The village of Piovà Massaia is located in the northern part of the Asti area, at the border of the Turin area. The scenario around consists of large hills and suggestive valleys. Such location was once called “Alto Monferrato” (High Monferrato) and it is the farthest bulwark of the old Marquisate of Monferrato.
From the tuft spur where lie the ruins of the Romanesque church of Saint Martin of Castelvero the view is breathtaking. On sunny and clear days it is possible to gaze upon the many villages of the valley and the surrounding hills. Each village has its own parish church and bell tower. Many villages still have towers and castles that witness their feudal past.
The area, famous for the fine and noble vineyards, is also known as “The Land of Saints”. It truly was the birthplace of many extraordinary man and women, often called “Social Saints”. It is a unique occurrence because no other region outside Piedmont and this particular area near Asti had such a high concentration of outstanding people in about a century. Those people decided to devote themselves to the neighbors, especially the poor and helpless. Piovà itself took the name after its most illustrious citizen, the venerable Guglielmo Massaia. He was a missionary living in Ethiopia for over 35 years.
The geological origin of the area is linked to that of the hilly chain extending from the right of river Po from Superga to Valenza. The hilly chain is supposed to have formed in the Oligo-Miocene period and it is made of marls rich in fossils and sandstones. We can definitely call this region “The Hills of the Sea”. This is because of the abundance of fossil shells, a dolphin, a whale and a rhinoceros discovered in mid-1800s. We can therefore have an idea of the environment and climate in that remote era.
The origins of the village of Piovà probably started with the Plebanate of Meyrate around the year 1000. Cocconato had become the capital of an important County and “Plebata” was part of it. Its name is after the latin “plebs”. “Pieve” is the gathering of worshippers devoted to one Bishop in the first years of the Catholic Church. The Romanesque remains throughout the area are important evidence of that.
Piovà is part of the Bioshpere Reserve of the Program “MAB-Man and Biosphere Unesco” since march 2016, together with 84 other towns. The process to recommend Piovà to become a MAB Reserve of “Colline Po Man and Biospere Reserve” started in 2014. On 30 September 2015 the Candidacy Dossier was submitted. The process ended in Lima, Perù, during the IV Edition of the World MAB Congress. The request has been accepted and Colline Po has been declared Reserve of the Biosphere. The purpose for this nomination was to promote the territory of the Park Collina del Po (Hill of River Po) but mostly the environment and the economy around this geographic brand. It is important to know that The CollinaPo Biosphere is the first case of Urban MAB acknowledgment in Italy. It is a highly anthropized natural area with over a million and half of inhabitants. It is part of a geographic territory with a lot of biodiversity, rich in waters and an increasing plant and animal life.