Oasi WWF Il Verneto
• Creation date: 1997
• Extension: approximately: 4 hectares
• Management: by the WWF; the most prized area of the forest was purchased with the funds of Operation Beniamino and subsequently other portions were added, thanks to agreements and donations.
• Equipment: No equipment is provided to avoid damaging the delicate balance of the biotype.
There is a path named after Giacomo Bologna [Braida] which starts from the ancient church of Santa Maria di Flexo, commonly called "Chiesa delle Ciappellette", and runs largely along a path halfway up the slope in the plot made available by the Bologna family, owner of the famous winery. The path for long periods of the year is impractical.
• Environment: Plain lowland wood of black alders (Alnus glutinosa), relict of an ancient flora present on a paleo-riverbed of the Tanaro, documented up to about 1100. This type of environment has practically disappeared throughout the Po valley and is protected by the “Habitat 2000” directive of the European Union. The trees have not been ceded for over 60 years and some specimens are of impressive size. The water-soaked or partially flooded ground contains a peculiar undergrowth, consisting of a dense expanse of sedges, rushes and horsetails. Fauna includes among the mammals the dormouse, the shrew, among the birds three species of woodpecker: muraiolo, major red and green, the marsh bunting, the wren, among the amphibians the common newt and the crested newt. The entomofauna is very important, with a large quantity of dragonfly species and remarkable species of carabid beetles. In July 2002, following all the scientific documentation produced by the WWF, the entire biotope (about 20 ha) was reported by the Regione Piemonte to the Ministry of the Environment for inclusion in the SIC (= sites of community interest) of the network "Bioitaly": a prestigious award, the first step for the creation of a Special Nature Reserve framed in the context of Piedmontese regional parks.
Among the numerous species surveyed there is the presence of Dyschiriodes importunus, a dark brown beetle, 3-4 mm long, known until today of few locations in central-southern Italy, linked to brackish coastal lagoons.
Year of the Lord 1244, on December 16 (1) Pope Innocent IV orders the abbot and convent of Pomposa to confer the noble cleric Alberto di Incisa, who declares he has no benefits, the church of S. Maria di Flexo (* ), located in Rocchetta Tanaro, on an ancient lateral arm of the river; if they had not done so, he would have had to provide Bribezio canon Belvacense, a resident of Bologna.
On March 5, 1245 (2), the Marquis Guglielmo d'Incisa or di Rocchetta forbade on behalf of God, the Pope, his father and his brothers that Albertine his kinsman take possession of a certain piece of land due for half to the church of S. Maria de Flexo (*) who claimed to be a patronage. The prohibition was not successful, so he appealed to the Holy See. An intervened rethinking had led the Marquis to want: "quod monachi Pomposie Deo et ecclesie deservient", through material prerogative.
On 17 February 1298 (3) he took possession of the priory of S. Maria de Flexo d. Venzolo together with the monk Marco for the appointment of the abbot Giacomo. The act takes place in Rocchetta di Flexo, present Giovanni marchese di Rocchetta, together with the Albertino and Pagano commarches. On September 7th, on the 10th of the same month, the various land measurements and the inventory of movable and immovable assets are under the careful supervision of the Lords: there are 2 houses and 6 plots (totaling 106 moggia, 7 bushels, for the total value of 1710 liras astensi, each bushel worth 40 scudi). 25 income titles are added: 1 "vernato" (**) and 1 "lescheto" (***) (of 17 moggia of the value of 68 lire), 4 woods, 20 fourth or fifth rights, in general, with the related measures and income. (4)
Year 1503 (5), the abbot of Pomposa, Bassano di Lodi, visits the church of S. Maria de Flexo, questions the chaplain Giacomo on the prior (commendatory of the same) Galeazzo (nominated by Pope Sixtus IV in 1483) and absent in how sick. The abbot notes the good care of the church and its possessions [including the verneto], while noting the scarcity of religious furnishings.
On June 4, 1990, the Asti branch of the WWF organized a popular demonstration in Rocchetta Tanaro called "Camminafiume", in collaboration with the Regional Natural Park, located on the hills above the village. It is part of the national campaign of the WWF "Coste e Rive", which intends to involve the public on the serious problem of the destruction of Italian coastal and fluvial environments. On the sidelines of the highly successful initiative, the Park rangers call attention to the head of the WWF of Asti, Giorgio Baldizzone, on an alder wood, almost always flooded, distant from the Park territory, threatened with imminent destruction: it is just the verneto of which the ancient documents tell...
Thus was born the great bet to save a unique forest, a "biotope" of extraordinary importance, a piece of history dating back to the Middle Ages, a small jewel of Nature that has reached us through the centuries.
On December 17, 1996, the National Executive of WWF-Italy, chaired by Grazia Francescato, deliberates the purchase of the central nucleus of the alneto, the oldest and best preserved part of the national campaign "Boschi e Foreste", which has the purpose of protecting, through the direct purchase, the most important Italian woods not yet protected.
On 8 June 1997, the Asti WWF, in collaboration with the Ente di Gestione dei Parchi e Riserve Naturali Astigiani, organized a large popular event in Rocchetta Tanaro, with the aim of announcing the initiative, ideally linking the Natural Park (the "Bosco del Marchese") with the ancient "Verneto", which is about to be saved: seven centuries have passed since the first document mentioning it.
(*) S. Maria di Flexo (or Flexio, Flixo, Fiesso, Fiesco), whose construction is prior to the year 1000 [there is news since 985], is currently known as the Church of the Ciappellette, because the wall structure it contains numerous fragments of bricks called "ciape, or ciappellette"; the name "Flexo" probably derives from the fact that it was on a loop of the Tanaro (now disappeared) that formed a wide curve, a "flexio", therefore.
(**) "Vernato", currently Verneto is the ancient name of the alneto, as in the local dialect the "Verna" is the name of the Ontano.
(***) "Lesca" was an ancient dialectal name that indicated a marsh grass, probably a kind of Carice, with which chairs were woven and baskets intertwined.
(1) Codex IV, 873-74; 2 ff. s.d.; E. Berger, a.c., Les Registres.
(2) Federici, Codex IV, 850-851.
(3) Codex VI, 900-25; VIII, 2 ff. s.d.; Guerrieri “Chiese e Possessi”, 260.
(4) Codex VI, 909-25 ; N. M. Cuniberti, “Monasteri del Piemonte”, Torino, 1970.
(5) P. A. Samaritani “I Metodi” pp. 182-183, 190-191.