Riserva di

Biella

Riserva di

Biella

The Thread of Time

Nestled in between the Biellese Alps and the Piedmontese countryside, Biella and its gorgeous surroundings are famous for their textile and weaving tradition. With some local production sites still active and an enchanting nature encircling every town, the Biellese is an area with a unique character - a truly unforgettable destination for those that love off-the-beaten path discoveries.

Discover all the excellence in this Riserva

  • Places & Landscapes
  • Culture
  • Food & Wine
  • Craft
  • Passionate Individuals
  • Industry

Sweet’N Sour

Mostarda di Mele 
Biellese

Sweet’N Sour

Mostarda di Mele Biellese

A typical product of Biella, the mostarda di mele biellese is a particular apple condiment made with candied fruit and spices. Not be confused with mustard, which in Italian is senape, the term Mostarda derives from mosto; that is fermented fruit must made of mainly grapes, apples and pears. 


The Mostarda di mele biellese is liquid, aromatic and sweet with a tinge of something slightly sour, which makes it the perfect match for dishes such as the traditional bollito (a classic beef stew) or paletta (a traditional cured pork salami). It also pairs very well with local cow and goat cheeses and is ideal with polenta, while local connoisseurs enjoy it simply spread on a piece of bread.


If you’re in the Biellese area during the summer, it might be interesting to know that when mixed with water, the mostarda biellese makes a wonderful refreshing and thirst-quenching drink – a great way to try this typical delicacy if you don’t have time to sit down at a local restaurant.

Traditionally, nearly all families in the area used to prepare the much-used relish, which had the benefit of not spoiling over time.

After harvesting the apples, the traditional method leaves them to ripen for about a month. The apples are then crushed and the mash is poured into a presser.


The juice is brought to boil immediately in order to stop the initial fermentation and the seeds are skimmed off, as well as part of the pulp and the peel, and the mash is let simmer for approximately 15-18 hours, depending on the sweetness of the apples. No additional sugar is added, and of course no sweeteners, while spices can be added to taste.

Curiosity: why was this recipe born in this specific area of Piedmont? The Biellese counts over 150 types of apples, many of them native varieties; it’s no wonder the local mostarda tastes so good. If you’re looking to try some, at present the Mostarda di mele biellese is produced in Valle Elvo, Valle di Mosso and in other districts of Biella.

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Over 100 Years 
of 
Timeless Style

Cappellificio Cervo

Over 100 Years of Timeless Style

Cappellificio Cervo

In 1897, the Piedmont hat factory Cappellificio Cervo was founded. The company was built alongside the Cervo waterway in Sagliano Micca, Biella - where the production site remains today. The hat artisans’ first-rate skills transformed this small business into an internationally known, distinguished company.


Not long after the Cappellificio (‘hat factory’) was established did it start to win awards for its exquisite hats.


In 1898, at the Turin Exhibition, Cappellificio Cervo was presented with a medal, then in 1909 at the Palermo Exhibition, it received the cross of honour, and finally in 1910 at the Brussels Exhibition, it was awarded the grand medal. 

Despite war times and economic difficulties, Cappellificio Cervo has unceasingly been producing hats made of fine animal hair. In addition to talent, it was the composition of unified entrepreneurs that allowed this company to prosper. In 1924, the workers themselves provided portions of their salaries to boost the company’s capital.

Over six years later, hats were beginning to be exported to countries such as America, Africa and Turkey. Two decades later, the factory was producing hats at a daily rate of 1,300.


With virtually unchanged production methods, still today both the preparation and creation of the Cappellificio Cervo’s hats are very delicate. The process begins with finding the highest quality materials: either rabbit or hare fur, subsequently treated to ensure its resistance to water and aged for six months, or felt.


Afterwards, the colouring and shaping of the hats occurs, which is followed by a thorough inspection. Then, accessories are placed and the creation of Cervo’s hats concludes with the placement of the company’s luxurious gold-lettered distinctive stamp. 

Like the Italian flag, the Cappellificio Cervo’s alpine hat became an Italian symbol through its significance in history and tradition.

Introduced in 1898, the classic felt alpine hat continues to be created exclusively by one producer - Cappellificio Cervo. If you’re curious to learn more about the company and its products, please visit the company’s official website.


Photo Credits: Alex Pietrogiacomi

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14 Generations 
of Fabric-making Excellence

Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza

14 Generations of Fabric-making Excellence

Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza

In 1733, Pietro Francesco established the Piacenza wool mill to create fabrics in Pollone (in the Piedmont Province of Biella), together with his son Giovanni Francesco. By 1757, just over twenty years after its creation, the mill was occupied by 100 workers under Pietro Francesco’s development.


After having withstood the French invasion era, in 1814, the family decided to modify the company’s name to Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza - a name that has been unaltered ever since.

Not long after the name change, the company’s products were beginning to be sold in nearly four dozen markets - an outcome from Carlo Antonio having purchased raw materials in prominent European markets. Also thanks to Carlo Antonio, later succeeded by Giovanni, the Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza was the first in Italy to launch the English inventions of the mule jenny and the jacquard mechanical looms in 1827. Twelve years later, the Paris designs of checks and stripes were first introduced in Italy on the Piacenza fabrics. 

Because of the company’s prosperity, twelve months later, the commencement of a new plant was under way. This new plant seamlessly incorporated every stage of production and allowed the prospect to manufacture at an industrial rate.


By 1844, Lanificio Fratelli Piacenza had 100 markets and the Turin Exposition had awarded it the Silver Medal. Two years later, the company received another Silver Medal in Genoa and in 1854, it achieved the Gold Medal in Turin for its patterned fabrics. 


Over a decade later, in 1868, Felice began to enhance the company’s production process and management of the company’s divisions.

Over 40 years afterwards, he introduced a new plant in Turin as well as the Felice Piacenza Mill School in Biella. As of 1932, Piacenza began its affiliation with haute couture and, over two decades later, the company embarked on the creation of fabrics for retail. Subsequently, tailored products were introduced and, in 1970, the company’s present factory was inaugurated, which was followed by the worldwide export of Piacenza fabrics within the following decade.


In 1990, the company unveiled the Piacenza Cashmere line and today the Lanificio is a leader in luxury design wear. Fourteen generations of wool fabric expertise pay off!

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A Unique Honey

Miele di Erica Cinerea

A Unique Honey

Miele di Erica Cinerea

Erica Cinerea, a particular species of heather native to the zones of Rive Rosse di Curino in the area of Biella, gives birth to one of the most exclusive honey varieties in Italy. This type of heather can only be found in a restricted area of Piedmont as well as selected fields in Rivieria Ligure di Ponente (Liguria) and its survival is linked to the particular climate and soil conditions.


Erica Cinerea suffers habitat contamination from the presence of people, making this plant’s survival a real challenge year after year.

Its flowers are dark pink, shaped like a tiny trumpet and appear in the beginning of June and continue to blossom throughout July. It is in these two months that a local delicacy of Biella is produced: Miele di Erica Cinerea.

The honey made from Erica Cinerea has a pronounced fragrance, a light amber colour, and a rather persistent flavour. Making this honey is no easy task, and Domenico Mander, a specialised beekeeper and producer of this particular honey, knows it well.


In order to protect the pureness of the collected nectar, Domenico places two hives in the middle of one of the biggest areas dedicated to the Erica Cinerea.

Curiosity: this delicate procedure has to take place during the very short time span following the blossoming of the black locust and preceding that of the chestnut.

Who knows if we’ll be lucky enough to taste this honey in the years to come, what’s sure is that if you’re in Biella and its surroundings in the near future, a teaspoon of Miele di Erica Cinerea is a way of appreciating nature’s duality of greatness and fragile equilibrium.

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Shepherds’ Prosciutto

Bergna

Shepherds’ Prosciutto

Bergna

Known as the shepherds’ prosciutto, Bergna is a traditional cold cut from the area of Biella, which used to be made exclusively from dead or injured animals to make up for lost livestock. The name probably originates from the Latin perna, which means leg or prosciutto, and was used throughout the Middle Ages to indicate salt-cured meat. 


The meat was carefully skinned and boned, cured with salt and generously sprinkled with pepper, this not only to season and preserve the meat, but also to keep flies away! 

Hereafter it was hung out to dry, sometimes directly on the roofs of the mountain cabins. In case of bad weather, it was hung by the fireside, which also added a much-appreciated smoky flavour to the meat.


Traditionally, Bergna was consumed either raw, cut into thin slices, or roasted on a charcoal fire, and can still be enjoyed this way in local restaurants.

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Bottoms up!

Ratafià d’Andorno Liqueur

Bottoms up!

Ratafià d’Andorno Liqueur

A traditional liqueur from the territory of Biella, Ratafià d’Andorno has been produced since the 16th century. Legend says the liqueur is native to Andorno Micca (a small commune about 4 kilometres from Biella) and the monastery of Santa Maria della Sala.


The term ratafià refers to alcoholic infusions of fruit and juices with various spices.

Soon after its creation, the production of this beautifully tinted liqueur became characteristic of a few families in town. One of these families has brought forth the tradition to this day and is the historic liqueur-maker Rapa Giovanni, who has been making the traditional spirit since 1880.

Today, the Ratafià d’Andorno comes in four varieties, each with a main ingredient: cherries, apricots, walnuts and juniper berries. The most traditional is the cherry rafatià, made from a variety of dark cherries.

This particular ratafià comes with a rich and embracing aroma with just a tinge of nut brittle, probably due to the maceration of the cherry stones - one of the secrets behind the recipe. 


Curiosity: the alcoholic percentage of this traditional spirit is usually just under 30, making ratafià not nearly as sugary as many other liqueurs.

So, suppose you’ve got yourself some – now what? Ratafià d’Andorno can be enjoyed as an after dinner digestive or as a simple drink among friends, and in the summer it goes very well with an ice-cream!

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A Living 
Family Tree

Palazzo La Marmora

A Living Family Tree

Palazzo La Marmora

Located in Biella’s historical Il Piazzo neighbourhood - the heart of medieval Biella - Palazzo La Marmora has stood for 800 years. It is easily recognizable in Il Piazzo for its imposing neo-classic façade, constructed in the year 1789 and measuring 80 metres in length. 


The building preserves many of its original features as a medieval home, both in terms of its architecture, its internal decorations, and even its historical archive, which documents the transformation throughout the centuries of the palazzo’s owners and the town centre. 

Palazzo La Marmora has been open to the public for just 20 years, and provides visitors with a unique opportunity to experience the reality of a medieval home, while exploring the relics of 17 generations of the Ferrero della Marmora family in this tangible historical timeline.


The palazzo’s grand rooms, frescoes, furniture and paintings document the members of the family that have lived here throughout the centuries.

They tell the stories of Sebastiano Ferrero, a 16th century financial general of the Duchy of Milan; of the ambassador Philip Ferrero della Marmora, who in the 18th century oversaw royal marriages between the Piedmont region and France; and of Raffaella Argentero di Bersezio, mother of the La Marmora generals of the Italian Risorgimento.


Palazzo La Marmora is a unique and stunning testament to one of the region’s most important historical families, and one of the few remaining examples in the world of an original and well preserved medieval home.

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From Biella to Hollywood

Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti

From Biella to Hollywood

Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti

Now a world-renowned luxury fashion brand, Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti was first established by Antonio Cerruti and his brothers in 1881 on the banks of the Cervo River in Biella. Before long the family-run business began to expand significantly, as their high quality textiles and innovative designs became increasingly sought after.


Despite their international success, the Cerrutis have always held on to their roots, continuing to prize creativity and innovation in the transformation of raw materials into high quality fabrics. 

In 1950, a young Nino Cerruti took over the family business, applying his own sense of style to the company’s garments. What had originally been a successful, yet relatively quiet business was transformed into an international fashion brand.


Cerruti’s first major venture had significant repercussions for men’s fashion: Hitman was a line of men’s sportswear, which included an unstructured, easy-going jacket - by removing the lining and designing a complementary fit, Cerruti created the first suit accessible to all men. 

The Flying Cross brand, launched in 1963 was perhaps the most notable and innovative of Cerruti’s ventures, a ready-to-wear clothing line, which combined the Neapolitan tailoring style with English fabric tastes.


Despite opening the Cerruti 1881 boutique in Paris, Cerruti always maintained operations in Biella. The company continued to grow and so did its list of noteworthy designers, such as Giorgio Armani, whose career began as a menswear designer for the company in 1961.


Nino Cerruti’s clothing was (and continues to be) a hit in Hollywood; he was responsible for dressing actors in several major films, including: Michael Douglas in Wall Street, Clint Eastwood in In the Line of Fire and Denzel Washington in Philadelphia.

The company does not currently offer guided tours of the production sites, but you can always check their official site for details and special openings. If you're looking to shop, you'll be happy to know that Cerruti also has its factory outlet in Biella where you'll find more than reasonable prices for materials of the highest quality.

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The Mystery 
of the Black Madonna

Santuario di Oropa

The Mystery of the Black Madonna

Santuario di Oropa

Located in an unspoiled setting, overlooking the alpine landscape from a height of 1180m, the Oropa Sancutary is the most important and largest Sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the Alps. Around 800,000 pilgrims visit the sanctuary every year. 

It is widely believed that a religious settlement existed in the area since the 4th century, when it was founded by Saint Eusebio, the first bishop of Vercelli.

Legend has it that Eusebio found a black, wooden statue of Mary carved by Saint Luke in Jerusalem, which he brought back to Oropa and placed in a niche. The first church was constructed around the niche in the 13th century and in the early 17th century the edifice was replaced by the ‘Ancient Basilica’. In reality, the Black Madonna is probably the work of a 13th century woodcarver native to Valle d’Aosta.

Nonetheless, the Sanctuary has grown and been developed over the years into a magnificent architectural ensemble of buildings. These include the royal apartments of the House of Savoy, a library and the Royal Gate.


The complex is made up of three large courtyards built on three levels and designed by great Savoyard architects such as Arduzzi, Gallo, Beltramo and Bonora.


The last building added to the Sanctuary was the Upper Basilica, a monumental church with a large dome, built between 1885 and 1960 to accommodate the large number of pilgrims visiting Oropa.

The carvings on the three massive bronze doors depict the history of the Sanctuary, which is included in the Sacri Monti del Piemonte e della Lombardia (the Sacred Mountains of Piedmont and Lombardy) and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003. 

Tip: when you have climbed all the steps, turn around and take in the beautiful panorama!

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From Monastery to Villa

Monastero di San Gerolamo

From Monastery to Villa

Monastero di San Gerolamo

A significant Piedmont monastery, the Monastero di San Gerolamo was established by the blessed Giovanni Gromo in 1512. Built in the town of Chiavazza, Biella, not far from the Cervo waterway, the monastery was constructed to house Gerolamini monks and did so for over 250 years. However, in 1777, an Episcopal organisation bought the area and created a resort to hold seminaries upon the hill encircling the Monastero. 

The Sella family later purchased the monastery in 1864, transforming portions of the structures and land into their present villa and garden.


The family has nevertheless preserved the church which is comprised of a wooden choir, designed by Evangelista da Cremona, as well as exquisite 16th century frescoes, which include depictions of San Giovanni, San Sebastiano and San Stefano painted by Bernardino Luini school’s artists. 

The original architecture of the Monastero di San Gerolamo remains to charm spectators who revere the Renaissance era.

Presently, guests can visit the Giardino Sella del Colle di San Gerolamo (The Sella Garden of San Gerolamo’s Hill) - to observe the monastery and note the preserved features from the 16th century as well as the renovations from the 19th century forward.


For contact information and other details, check their official website.

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The Return of the Chestnut

Pan D’Arbo

The Return of the Chestnut

Pan D’Arbo

The chestnut tree was once the most important tree in the Alps, and every part of it was used by locals: the bark, the branches, the leaves and even the husks. But of course, the chestnut was the most valued product, and it’s easy to see why: when dried it provided an invaluable food resource during the long winter months. 

Poor families would chestnuts to make soup, softening them in milk and then cooking them with rice.

The chestnut was so important that many considered it as the vegetable equivalent of pork, pork being the most prized meat back in the days. In Biella and its surroundings, the chestnut tree would become affectionately known simply by its name in the local dialect: arbo (‘tree’). While today the chestnut is seen much less often than in the past, it has regained its regal status as the culinary protagonist of Pan D’Arbo, a sweet bread from Biella.

Soft and dense, Pan D’Arbo has the rich flavour of chestnut flour enhanced by the addition of ingredients such as candied fruit, marrons glacés (candied chestnuts), and Marsala.


Toothsome and satisfying, Pan D’Arbo renders a well-deserved honour not only to the chestnut, but also to the rich culinary traditions of Biella.

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Where 
Piedmont’s Textile 
Industry was Born

The Road of Wool

Where Piedmont’s Textile Industry was Born

The Road of Wool

Both Biella and Borgosesia have been regarded as ‘cities of wool’, Biella for the production phase, and Borgosesia for the point of commerce. La Strada della Lana or ‘the road of wool’, runs between the two, spanning for approximately 50 kilometres. This area was where Piedmont’s textile industry was born - in the midst of the green meadows and rich woods, alongside the flowing Cervo waterway, where hardworking men and women turned Biella into an industrial community. 


La Strada della Lana has been comprised of wool mills for centuries and was created by the mills’ employees for commuting to and from their jobs. 

It all started when Pietro Sella, an entrepreneur born into the family business of wool, travelled to England to learn how to operate wool machines. He then continued to Belgium to procure these instruments, and in 1817, incorporated the new machines in his family’s factory as the first of their kind in Biella.

Thanks to these machines, there was a vast increase in productivity, resulting in 18 factories and 1,683 employees making up the Biellese industry by 1887. 


Because of the textile industry prospering, benefits were provided to the community, such as roads, schools, and clubs for workers. For the duration of this era, the Cervo waterway was the vital source of energy needed to run the mills.  


Upon a visit to La Strada della Lana, guests are able to observe remains from the industrialisation era. Features are the ‘factory of the wheel - the previous wool mill of Zignone built in the 19th century - as well as the Maurizio Sella factory, a former wool mill which houses archives of the textile industry. For further details, visiting hours, directions, and contact information, please visit the Strada’s official website.

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A Mountain Dream

The Zegna Oasis

A Mountain Dream

The Zegna Oasis

With its stunning Alpine landscape and breath-taking views over the Po Valley, the Oasis Zegna nature reserve in Piedmont has much to offer nature lovers and mountain sports enthusiasts. Founded in 1993 by the fourth generation of the Zegna family, owners of the Ermenegildo Zegna fashion house empire, the reserve covers an area of over 100 sq. km of the Biella Alps, a region of spectacular, unspoilt natural beauty and ecological diversity.


The reserve is easily accessible and in addition to the rich network of paths and nature trails traversing the park, there is a 65 km panoramic road (SP 232). 

Starting from the village of Trivero at 800 m it climbs to 1500 m, passing through three unique areas, each with its own distinct characteristics, natural habitats, fauna and flora. In addition to forests of Norway spruce, chestnut, beech and ash, the route runs through the Conca dei Rododendri, an area of gently rolling hillside covered with Rhododendron and hydrangea bushes, whose vibrant blooms provide an explosion of colour in spring and early summer.

For those interested in exploring the area’s economic and cultural history there are opportunities to visit the still inhabited mountain villages clustered around the Zegna Wool Mill in Trivero and the Casa Zegna museum and exhibition space, as well as other sites of interest such as:

  •  the last battleground of Fra Dolcino, the radical Christian preacher mentioned in Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy (accused of heresy in 1307 and burned at the stake);
  • the remains of ancient mines dating back to the Early Middle Ages;
  • the 17th and 18th century Rondolere and Argentina mines;
  • the bocchette, mountain passes along which local herdsmen once led their cattle  to reach the pasture-rich upper slopes of the Valsessera.

      


For mountain sports enthusiasts, there is the ski resort of Bielmonte, where visitors can choose from a host of activities throughout the year, from skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing  or kite skiing in winter to horse riding, cycling and walking tours in the spring and summer months.


This area boasts 20km of slopes for downhill skiing and snowboarding as well as 20km of cross-country ski tracks. There are even opportunities to enjoy night-time skiing or walking tours beneath the stars! 

Good to know: if you aren't as adventurous, you'll be happy to know that there's also a wellness centre and spa in the oasis, while those in search of culinary adventure can sample local Piedmont cuisine in the resort’s numerous restaurants or enjoy typical mountain hospitality in one of the park’s many hotels and farmstays. A nice way to relax amidst the green!

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The Entrepreneurial Statesman

Quintino Sella

The Entrepreneurial Statesman

Quintino Sella

The deep rooted entrepreneurship of the Sella family dates back to the second half of the 16th century, when Bartolomeo Sella and his son, Comino, began their business in textiles, manufacturing fabrics from wool and thus financing the businessmen in the Biellese community.

In the following centuries, their descendants distinguished themselves within the community of Valle Mosso for their various initiatives in textile and agriculture.

Quintino’s great-uncle, Pietro Sella, played an important part in the industrialization of textiles in the mid-19th century, when he imported the very first mechanical spinning machines from Belgium in 1817 and introduced them to the family mill. In 1835, Quintino’s father, Maurizio, founded a new wool mill in his own name, which quickly became one of the most technologically advanced factories, not only in the Biellese area, but in the entire Kingdom of Sardinia.

It would have seemed that the future career of young Quintino was already laid out for him as he graduated from the University of Turin in engineering in 1847 at only 20 years of age, but then he accepted a scholarship to study mineralogy at the Parisian École des Mines. Furthermore, he was offered a possibility to visit the most important mining and manufacturing districts in Germany and England. He returned to Turin in 1852 to teach applied geometry and mineralogy at the technical Regio Istituto and a year later he was professor of mathematics at the university.


Despite his blossoming career in the academic community, Quintino entered political life in 1860 as a representative of the Destra Storica (the moderate-conservative right). Three times minister of finance in the newly unified Italy, he meant at all costs to balance the government budget - which at the time was very critical - taking extreme measures in hand, such as the highly unpopular grist tax (a tax on the milling of grain), which forced him to resign in 1866, but which he was later able to use, amongst other measures, to reinstate the Italian government’s finances.

Quintino Sella left the political scene in 1876, returning to run the family factory in Biella and thus more or less retired from public life.

During his impressive career as a politician, an academic and an entrepreneur, he also found the time to co-found the Club Alpino Italiano; active in protecting the Alpine environment, to renovate the Accademia dei Lincei; an Italian science academy, of which he was member and president, and to inspire the foundation of a “family” bank, the Banca Sella, brought to life after his death in 1884 by his son Gaudenzio. 

A curiosity: he even had a mineral named after him, the Sellaite!

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A Man Ahead of His Time

Ermenegildo Zegna

A Man Ahead of His Time

Ermenegildo Zegna

Ermenegildo Zegna was born on 2 January, 1892 to Angelo Zegna and Caterina Lesna. His father, a watchmaker by trade, had taken up wool weaving in the second half of the 19th century, and Ermenegildo, at the age of 18, joins the family business with his brother Mario founding the Lanificio Zegna in 1910, in Trivero, near Biella.

After the death of Angelo Zegna in 1923, the business experienced an extraordinary growth in the following 20 years under the reign of Ermenegildo.


His was a vision ahead of his time; to seek out the very best of materials, using only quality natural fibres imported directly from the country of origin (Australia and South Africa), and thus producing fabrics of the highest quality and of the finest wool.

Although devoted to his homeland, Ermenegildo was very much aware of the necessity to open up to the international market, and in 1938 the Zegna Woollens Corporation was established in New York.


Despite Word War Two, he managed to keep the company afloat, rapidly overcoming post-war difficulties and resuming its pre-war growth. In his keen interest to help his fellow countrymen weather the post-war crisis, he dedicated himself body and soul to the construction of the Panoramica Zegna: a 14 kilometre long route linking Trivero and Bielmonte, along which hotels, tourist resorts, summer camps and botanical gardens appeared.

Ermenegildo Zegna passed away on 18 November 1966, leaving the family business in the competent hands of his sons, Aldo and Angelo, who have since managed to secure a spot on the international fashion scene as the largest menswear brand in the world, with over 550 monobrand stores and an annual revenue of over €1 billion.


Being one of the most significant buyers of ultra-fine Merino wool, the Zegna brand continues to promote and honour the wool industry, aiming to produce finer and softer wools. The brand now stretches to include items, other than suits and fabrics, such as neckties, knitwear, shirts, accessories, sportswear and perfumes, even though Zegna’s Su Misura suits (made-to-measure) stand as a benchmark.

Needless to say, it is one of the best-known Italian luxury fashion houses, and it still remains true to the core of what Ermenegildo Zegna stood for: to provide original Italian fabrics with matchless quality.

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An Unconventional Art Lab

Michelangelo Pistoletto

An Unconventional Art Lab

Michelangelo Pistoletto

On the banks of the river Cervo, which runs through the city of Biella, stands a disused textile mill now transformed into an art and creativity laboratory: the Cittadellarte – Fondazione Pistoletto. Cittadellarte (‘Cityofart’) is a non-profit organization founded in 1998 by the Italian artist, painter and sculptor Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Born in the city of Biella in 1933, Pistoletto started his artistic career in the 1950s, when he started working on figurative images and self-portraits.


He had his first exhibition in Turin in 1960 and in the mid-1960s he was introduced to the international scene, where he quickly became known as an important exponent of the Italian art movement Arte Povera (‘Poor Art’). Winner of the Wolf Prize in Arts and famous for his mirror paintings, Pistoletto seems to believe in the relationship between the spectator, the painting, and the virtual space that exists in-between the two. For him it is important for the viewer to become part of the artwork itself.


Elaborating on this idea, he announced the Progetto Arte in 1994, which later led to the foundation of the Cittadellarte itself.

The name Cittadellarte evokes a double meaning; that of the Cittadella (citadel, fortress), a protected area wherein the artists are able to develop and expand their ideas, and that of the Città (city), which recalls the notion of openness and complex interactions with the outside world.

Cittadellarte is organized according to a cellular system, where each nucleus is divided into different elements.

These elements are referred to as Uffizi (offices). Each manages its own activities aimed at a specific area in the social system. The goal is to produce an ethical and sustainable change, acting both on a local and a global scale. At present, the Uffizi are involved in the following categories: Art, Education, Ecology, Economy, Politics, Spirituality, Production, Work, Communication, Architecture, Fashion and Nourishment.


Each year, from June to October, the organization hosts young artists working on the project UNIDEE, a university of ideas, created to examine the relationship between art and public sphere. Inside the buildings you can also find a permanent collection of the works of Michelangelo Pistoletto.

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Manchester in Piedmont

 Lanificio Zignone and the Fabbrica della Ruota

Manchester in Piedmont

Lanificio Zignone and the Fabbrica della Ruota

The ex-woolen mill in Pray Biellese, better known as the Fabbrica della Ruota (the Wheel Factory), was constructed around 1878, when the Zignone brothers decided to follow the example of other families in the area and build a factory near the river Ponzone, in the district of Flecchia, along what is now known as la Strada della Lana (the Wool Road).


The Fabbrica della Ruota is now a museum that boasts one of the finest examples of industrial archaeology in Italy, because of the intact condition of the original 19th century multilevel structure in pure Manchester style, distinguished by its teledynamic energy transmission system, the only one left in Italy. Original machinery is on display, restored and functioning, as well as scale models of woolen mills and a specialized library.

In its heyday, the mill employed more than 150 workers, manufacturing woolen fabrics mainly meant for export.

In 1966, the building was purchased by businessman Carlo Beretta, who then donated it to DocBi (the Biellese Research Centre) in 1991. Today the Fabbrica della Ruota is an integrated part of the Ecomuseo in Biella. For more info on opening times and visiting hours, please check the museum’s website.


But what about the Zignone family? Today, the original owners of the mill  still continue production in their new factory, using traditional methods and the finest wool. For more info on their history and products refer to their official site.


Ph. Credits: Stefano Ceretti

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The Queen’s Favourite

Toma Maccagno

The Queen’s Favourite

Toma Maccagno

The Maccagno belongs to the family of toma cheeses and is exclusively made from whole cow’s milk, either raw or pasteurized.  The name comes from the mountain pasture located below Monte Cossarello, north of Biella, which carries the same name, and its origins go back to the 18th century.


The crust is straw-coloured or reddish, while the compact round-eyed paste is white or yellowish. The texture of the cheese is soft and the taste is mild with a lovely, sweet flavour, which resembles that of butter or heavy cream.

It is a much used ingredient in the local cuisine, particularly when preparing the traditional polenta concia, a typical dish made with cornmeal, or simply savoured with a nice glass of red wine.

Interesting facts: it was said to be Queen Margaret of Savoy’s favourite cheese, and was also much enjoyed by the Italian minister Quintino Sella, who used to treat his friends and relatives with this delicious cheese! Furthermore, it is included in the catalogue of heritage foods maintained by the Slow Food movement under the name of Macagn.

Ph. Credits: italianfoodexcellence.com

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Garden of the Mind

Giardino Botanico di Oropa

A wonderful and relaxing botanical garden, full of blooming flowers and native trees. The perfect complement for any visit to the Oropa Sanctuary.

Fit for a Bishop

The Duomo of Biella

The most important church in the city of Biella, St. Stephen's basilica has wonderful inner tromp-l'oeil decorations from the 18th century.

Rhododendron Dream

Felice Piacenza Nature Reserve

A beautiful park not far from Biella, the Felice Piacenza Nature Reserve - or Burkina Park as it also known - is a flower-filled retreat.

Art and History Intertwined

Museo del Territorio Biellese

In the beautiful setting of an ex-convent lies the vast collection of artefacts on display in the biellese museum dedicated to both the historical and artistic background of the area.

Garden of the Mind

Giardino Botanico di Oropa

Next to the Black Madonna Sanctuary of Oropa, you will find the ever-growing and breathtakingly beautiful botanical garden, located at an altitude of 1200m. Created in 1998, it is a WWF protected area. 


The garden cultivates over 500 different species and varieties of plants and the majority of the site is indigenous beech woodland, with many small shrubs, including blueberry and rhododendron. Also of note are the ornamental alpine plants in the rock garden.  

If you are interested in learning more about the specific aspects of the garden, you can follow the paths with a themed audio-guide. A perfect complement to a visit to the Oropa Sanctuary, this botanical garden is sure to bring you tranquillity and peace.


Tip: close to the protected area stands the imposing Monte Mucrone, with a beautiful alpine lake that reflects the colours of the sun and of the surrounding pine trees. It's a favourite among local hikers as it is off the beaten path and offers spectacular views.


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Fit for a Bishop

The Duomo of Biella

Saint Stephen’s Cathedral in Biella – commonly known as the city’s duomo, or diocese seat – is the city’s most important Catholic Church. The site on which the present-day structure stands was originally the location of a small church built in the 11th century. In 1402, the original church ceded to the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Little remains of the original medieval structure, though stone from the first church’s columns were used in the construction of a few parts of the 15th century church. 


When Biella became seat of the diocese in 1772, Santa Maria Maggiore was chosen to be Biella’s duomo.

Subsequently, it underwent another significant renovation intended to render it worthy of its new function and elevated position in the Catholic Church’s hierarchy. 

The architect and engineer Ignazio Giulio of Turin headed the 18th century renovation project, transforming Santa Maria Maggiore into a Neo-Gothic gem. The artist Giovannino Galliari decorated the inner part of the church in 1784 using the trompe-l’oeil technique.


Consecrated in 1804 by Monsignor Conaveri, the church was not dedicated to Saint Stephen until the year 1872, following the destruction of Old St. Stephen’s church, originally built in the 5th century.

Architects who followed Ignazio Giulio continued to modify and make additions to the structure throughout the 19th and into the 20th centuries, thus contributing to its complex and multi-layered historical and architectural identity. 

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Rhododendron Dream

Felice Piacenza Nature Reserve

The Parco Burcina, situated in an area between the small Piedmontese cities of Biella and Pollone, is a green thumb’s paradise. The park and nature reserve feature a highly varied assortment of plant species and a particularly significant presence of rhododendrons, which when in bloom mid-May colour the reserve with brilliant shades of pink, red and purple. 


The park’s history is long; in the mid-19th century, the park’s original owner, Giovanni Piacenza, began to acquire large plots of land in the area that now comprises the reserve.

He was the first to cultivate the land in a studied way that nonetheless sought to imitate nature, planting sequoias, atlas cedars and white pines, among others. Giovanni’s son Felice continued his father’s work, dedicating nearly fifty years of his life to seeking out and purchasing new territories and planting new species; indeed, it is thanks to Felice that we may enjoy the park’s famed ‘rhododendron valley’.

Today, Felice is commemorated in the park’s official name, Riserva naturale speciale del Parco Burcina – Felice Piacenza.


This nature reserve has been property of the city of Biella since the year 1934; however, Felice’s grandson Guido heads the board of experts that oversees the park’s management and upkeep, and thus this historic Biella landmark has remained in the Piacenza family.

Tip: make sure you visit during the spring or summertime, when all the Rhododendra are in full bloom!

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Art and History Intertwined

Museo del Territorio Biellese

The Museo del Territorio Biellese (‘the museum of the Biella area’) is situated inside the ex-convent of San Sebastiano – one of the most important examples of Renaissance buildings in Piemonte, built between 1500 and 1540. It gathers testimony from all over the territory, from Viverone to Lago della Vecchia, from the Nature Reserve of La Bessa to Monte Rubello. 


The exhibitions are set up in two intertwining itineraries: one is dedicated to an archeological section – from the Paleozoic era to the Middle Ages, the other is committed to a historic-artistic section – from the Renaissance to important collections of the 20th century.

The museum was inaugurated in late 2001 in order to collect and preserve the heritage of Biella and its surroundings, and has been enriched over the years with exhibitions of various kinds: in May 2011 the archeological section was installed, which opens with a display of sea fossils from the area (Biella was once submerged by the sea) and continues with the Nature Reserve of La Bessa, the Roman Necropolis of Cerrione and Biella, and into the Middle Ages of Fra Dolcino.

The other itinerary is linked to the local collectors, who have helped safeguard Biellese artistic heritage by generously donating works of art from the 19th and 20th century, such as works by Emilio Longoni, Carlo Carrà, Pelizza da Volpedo, Marco Calderini and Lorenzo Delleani. International artists such as Marc Chagall, Joan Mirò, Salvador Dalì and René Magritte are also represented.

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Five Centuries of Religion

Santuario di Graglia

A walk through the woods will unveil the many chapels, churches and statues that make up this unique religious pilgrimage in the Biellese hills.

Biella’s Medieval Heart

Il Piazzo Neighbourbood

If you're looking for the Medieval side of Biella, look no further. Il Piazzo is the historical centre of the city; lined with small shops and bars, it's the perfect spot for a lazy afternoon stroll.

A Sweet Tooth Institution

Pasticceria Coggiola

Biella's pastry shop par excellence, Pasticceria Coggiola has a long and illustrious history in local chocolates and traditional sweets.

Medieval Protection

The Ricetto of Candelo

A not to miss Medieval jem, the Ricetto of Candelo is one of the best-preserved examples of fortified villages in all of Europe.

Five Centuries of Religion

Santuario di Graglia

The development of the Santuario di Graglia (Biella) commenced in 1615; the goal was to illustrate the key chapters of Catholic Faith, which were to include Jesus’s birth, his life and his journey to God in Heaven.

The plan was to incorporate 100 chapels spanning from the town of Graglia at 600 metres a.s.l., to San Carlo hill at 1020 metres a.s.l.

From 1616 until 1624, the construction of various significant churches, chapels, and statues successfully took place, which allowed numerous pilgrims to promptly visit the Sanctuary’s sites. These sites included the Church of San Carlo, the Chapel of the Annunciation, the Sanctuary of Loreto, and the statue of the Madonna Lauretana. In 1624, the pastor who had led the Sanctuary’s development, Don Velotti, died and his successors delayed the continuation of his initial plans. 

The entire Sanctuary was not finalised until the latter part of the 18th century because of economic difficulties, wars, diseases, and other challenges. Don Carlo Giuseppe Gastaldi is largely credited for the completion of the project and thus recognised as the Sanctuary’s second founder.


Many crosses, paintings, musical instruments, books, and statues dating from 1513 to 1900 are dispersed throughout the different chapels and natural surroundings for visitors to see. 

This sanctuary is comprised of stunning architecture, elegant frescos, and resides in the midst of breath-taking, natural green and wooded surroundings. To find out the current visiting and service times as well as room, restaurant, and guided tour availability, please visit the Sanctuary’s official website.

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Biella’s Medieval Heart

Il Piazzo Neighbourbood

Visitors to the Piedmontese city of Biella must not miss the historical Il Piazzo neighbourhood, testament of Biella’s medieval roots. Situated on a hill 480 metres above sea level, Il Piazzo towers over the modern town centre, to which it is connected by a funicular railway, in operation since the year 1885.

Though Biella’s civic heart was transferred to a more modern section of town in the 18th century, Il Piazzo remains an animated area characterized by lively and highly frequented cafes and coffee bars.

The neighbourhood’s history is long and rich, and many relics of its past may be freely visited even today. Its roots can be traced to the 12th century, when the bishop Uguccione di Vercelli – whose diocese had controlled the area since the year 882 – conceded important privileges to anyone wishing to live there, including the right to open commercial businesses, such as a market and butcher’s shop, and organize a local judicial system.


From here, the town grew quickly. The promise of safety provided by the town’s hilltop position and the construction of a protective wall around the town centre attracted many who were fleeing clashes between the warring Ghibellini of Vercelli and Guelfi of Biella. 


By the end of the 1200’s and into the early 1300’s, Il Piazzo had become the cultural and administrative heart of Biella. It was also during this period that the bulk of Il Piazzo’s most important architecture took shape. 

Notable sites include the Porte di Andorna and di Ghiara, doors to the neighbourhood that were constructed in the 1300’s; the medieval home of Palazzo La Marmora; the Palazzo del Comune, which served as the city’s municipal centre for five hundred years between the 13th and 18th centuries, and the Palazzo Cisterna.   

Piazzo underwent a significant change in the year 1722. At this time, Biella became a bishop’s seat and Il Piazzo was no longer spiritually dependent on Vercelli.

This change led to the abolition of the feudal privileges on which Il Piazzo had been developed, and one by one, its civic institutions were transferred to Biella’s more modern neighbourhood, known as Biella Piano. Despite this transformation, Il Piazzo has been well maintained over the centuries and remains an important part of Biella’s livelihood today. 

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A Sweet Tooth Institution

Pasticceria Coggiola

PASTICCERIA COGGIOLA IS A LEGEND IN BIELLA and in the world of haute patisserie. It was founded in 1928 by Riccardo and Remo Coggiola, two dedicated brothers and pastry-makers, who set up a café in via Torino 12, where they soon added pastry-making and a gelateria to top it up.


Bit by bit, they worked up a reputation as one of the finest and best-known pastry-shops not only in Biella, but in all of Piemonte.

At the beginning of the 1950s, the pasticceria backed up its traditional pastries and gelati with the torta meringata, the torta tartufata (meringue and chocolate semifreddo desserts) and the exquisite coggiolini al rhum, which would soon become some of the most sought-after products in the Biellese.

Not quite the praline, not quite the bon-bon, these mouth-watering little delights bring out the full flavour of the darkest chocolate and the finest rum in-between two shells of cocoa meringue.


Each coggiolino is wrapped in bright-coloured metallic paper, which perhaps makes them even more captivating to the eye! 


These prize-winning treats have been around for more than half a century, which rightfully makes them part of the local history, as is the pasticceria that produces them.

Today, the shop is still owned and run by the Coggiola family and is now located in via Dellani, Biella.

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Medieval Protection

The Ricetto of Candelo

Among the Piedmont region’s numerous medieval artefacts is the unique ricetto of the town of Candelo. One of the most well preserved examples in all of Europe, this fortified and well-protected structure built at the innermost part of a town was used to store goods that comprised the town’s wealth – in the case of Candelo, particularly wine and corn seed – and occasionally as a refuge for the local population when they were under attack.


The ricetto was commonly used in the Northern Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy during the medieval period.

Although the ricetto of Candelo’s exact construction date is unknown, historians have determined that it was likely built between the late 13th and early 14th centuries. It consists of more than 200 buildings arranged in a pentagonal shape in an area that extends across 13,000 square metres.

A building of note in Candelo’s ricetto is the torre del principe or ‘prince’s tower’, built by the area’s feudal lord Sebastiano Ferrero, with funding from Duke Philip II Senzaterra (without land) at the beginning of the 1500s. The building is the tallest structure of the ricetto and served as Ferrero’s home.


Today, the majority of the ricetto’s buildings are private owned by local individuals or associations.


There are several art studios and exposition areas, an historical archive, several offices of Candelo’s network of museums, and a European centre for documentation on ricetti.

The area is also the site of several important local festivals, including the festival of St. Anthony in January, Carnival in February and March, a classical music festival in May, and a celebration of wine, local delicacies and Piedmont folk music in early October. Nonetheless, whenever you choose to visit and even if no particular events are on, we're sure the Ricetto of Candelo will remain in your memory for its unique, intimate atmosphere of a time long gone.

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Twig Cake

Torta del Buscajet

A cake of the Biellese tradition, Torta del Buscajet is a wholesome local treat for anyone looking to satisfy their sweet tooth!

Ready to Fly in Your Mouth!

Navette di Biella

Biella's delicious, traditional biscuits could only be shaped as something clearly recalling the area's textile heritage; flying shuttles, for example!

Twig Cake

Torta del Buscajet

A traditional cake with a peculiar history, Torta del buscajet was originally from the district of Gaglianico (a small town south of Biella, Piedmont) but is now produced in various pastry shops in and around Biella too. It is a flat, unleavened cake with a golden crust whose main ingredients are semolina, raisins and amaretto biscuits.

The name of the cake derives from ancient times, when families did not have their own ovens. Richer towns had a baker while villages and smaller towns sometimes had to refer to a richer house with a private oven.


Families would bring their bread dough and other raw bakery products to these ‘community ovens’ once a week for cooking.

Such was the case with torta del buscajet, and housewives used to put a small twig (buscajet) in the surface of the cake dough, before taking it to the town baker to have it cooked. In this way, they could tell their cakes apart!


It used to be considered quite a modest cake, made from humble ingredients, but today it has become a regular local specialty, which is probably why the recipe was rigorously kept a secret for many years by the locals.


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Ready to Fly in Your Mouth!

Navette di Biella

Navette could be defined as the epitome of the town of Biella: they are biscuits that combine Biella’s long history in the production of fine fabrics with the Italian art of pastry making. The biscuit’s shape is a sweet replica of the navetta or flying shuttle - the tool used to weave the threads in fabric making.


The Navette di Biella are trademarked by Sapori Biellesi (Flavours from Biella), an organization committed to protecting the quality and integrity of Biella’s local products.

Made of wholesome ingredients including chestnut flour, walnut flour, cinnamon, and cloves, the biscuit dough is cut into the shape of navette. Once baked, the ends of the biscuit are decorated with chocolate, making navette not only an incredibly charming replica of the real tool, but a deliciously sweet one as well!

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