Riserva di

Vercelli

Riserva di

Vercelli

Nature's Retreat

The Vercellese is a province blessed by the unique rythmicity of nature's slow seasons and subtle hills. A region of surreal beauty and plentiness, Vercelli and its surroundings have been vowed to agriculture by the centuries of rice-farming tradition. The rich, sulphureous soil is also ideal for winemaking, and the Vercellese hills cradle some of the most important and renowned vineyards of the area - not to mention the UNESCO Infernot, ancient wine-cellars still in use today.

Discover all the excellence in this Riserva

  • Places & Landscapes
  • Culture
  • Food & Wine
  • Curiosity

The History of Pharmacy

Farmacia Picciòla Museum

The History of Pharmacy

Farmacia Picciòla Museum

The Picciòla Pharmacy Museum in Vercelli is a small exhibition consisting of six rooms decorated with furniture from the 19th and 20th century. The itinerary leads visitors through two hundred years of history illustrating the evolution of pharmaceutical science and techniques.

The collection of items was started in 1799 by the first owner of a famous pharmacy in Trieste and became a museum in 1998, when the present owner of the same pharmacy decided to display the rich inventory of items found in the historical shop.

In 1999 the museum became part of the Association Européenne des Musées d'Histoire des Sciences (A.E.M.H.S.M.).

Despite the efforts by its founder, Doctor Giorgio du Ban, the Trieste museum was not successful and the collection was therefore sold to a prominent Vercelli pharmacist, Carlo Bagliani, who moved the museum to the Piedmontese town. The new museum was opened in 2014 with the original collection of over two thousand items including mortars, pestles, precision scales, spirit inhalation therapy machines, alembics and jars. It also has over 800 scientific books, 400 literature books and many precious historical documents.

Curiosity: a huge crocodile hangs from the ceiling of the lab-style room, an exotic touch for sure!

The Vercelli experiment has been successful so far. The museum is an important site for pharmacists and pharmacy students but it is also popular with those interested in history and antique objects. Some of the items displayed were also used as part of the pharmacy pavilion at the 2015 Milan Expo.

The Museum collaborates with other cultural institutions to organise special exhibitions or events. The recent “Il Sapere Portatile. Farmacie da viaggio e testi medici tra XVI e XIX secolo”, a special exhibit of portable pharmacy boxes and medical books, organised in collaboration with the prestigious Museo Leone, is an example of the growing role this little museum is acquiring in Vercelli's cultural life.

A visit to this unusually-themed museum is highly recommended.

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A Collector's Dream

Museo Borgogna

A Collector's Dream

Museo Borgogna

One of the ten most important picture galleries in Italy, Museo Borgogna in Vercelli has more than 450 works on display. Although definitely less widely known, it is thought to be almost as important as the Galleria Sabauda in Turin. 

The museum owes its name to Antonio Borgogna, a member of the Vercellese bourgeoisie who, in 1906, donated the hundreds of art pieces we see today to the town of Vercelli.

The result of Antonio Borgogna’s many travels around the world – in the form of paintings, furnishings and objets d’arte - are just a few of the collection’s items. The paintings include an important selection of Renaissance art from Piedmont and Vercelli, in addition to those from the regions of Lombardy, Tuscany and Veneto. Defedente Ferrari, Giovenone, Gaudenzio Ferrari and Lanino, as well as Titian, Luini, Francia and Sodoma are just a few of the master painters who have created the works on display at the museum.


Among the artistic masterpieces are numerous Flemish and Dutch works from the 17th century and italian paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as rare detached frescoes and altarpieces.

Antonio donated these works along with his palace, Palazzo Borgogna: a magnificent edifice in neoclassical style bought in 1882 and elegantly restored, which is now home to the museum. The museum is open for visits and offers private tours on request.

A tip: the museum would already be worth a visit for its setting alone; not to mention the amazing collection it harbours. Make sure to plan a visit to this small jewel far from the conventional tourist guides.



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Hop Suey

Vercelli's Frogs in
Traditional Cuisine

Hop Suey

Vercelli's Frogs in Traditional Cuisine

If there is one thing you will never be short of in Vercelli, it’s water… and frogs. With abounding paddy fields providing warm, shallow pools to wallow in, springtime is frog-heaven in the Vercellese.

Since traditional cuisine follows the tacit ‘nothing-goes-to-waste’ rule, frog legs have been a main ingredient of many local recipes ever since rice-farming became a major source of income in the area.


Modern farming methods, which involve long periods of dry paddies, have caused a radical diminishment of the frog population in the Vercellese but from an outsider’s perspective, there are still frogs galore.


Frog-based dishes can still be found in a handful of traditional restaurants, but locals would rarely consider them as a meal option as these widespread amphibians are considered, although delicious, to be a poor man's dish.

If you are brave enough to immerse yourself in local customs and cuisine, go for a risotto alle rane (frog risotto) or brodo di rana (frog broth), or even spezzatino di rana (slow-cooked frog meat, usually accompanied by potatoes or vegetables).

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A Generous
Man's Homage to His Hometown

Leone Museum

A Generous Man's Homage to His Hometown

Leone Museum

The Museo Leone was established in 1910 thanks to Camillo Leone's bequest to the Vercelli Istituto delle Belle Arti (Institute of Fine Arts). Upon his death in 1907 the famous and rich notary left his house and his eclectic collection to the institute for the creation of a museum which, in his vision, was to give Vercelli a haven for the conservation of the town's heritage.

The museum is located in two palaces, 16th century Palazzo Alciati and 18th century Palazzo Langosco, connected by a low building constructed between them in 1939.

The entrance is through the lovely courtyard of Casa Alciati. The palace has marvellous 16th century frescoes on the walls and houses the museum's library, an invaluable collection of books, manuscripts and documents.

The rooms built in 1939, which connect the two palaces, host a permanent exhibit on the history of Vercelli with archaeological finds and photographic documents and three rooms dedicated to the Italian Risorgimento.


Palazzo Langosco, Leone's own residence, now houses his collection of decorative arts. The entire first floor of the palace has a series of rooms named after the objects they contain. The red hall has an important collection of wooden, ivory and enamel boxes and 16th and 17th century paintings on the walls, while the Sala delle Maiolica displays fine 16th and 17th century majolica artefacts. Additionally, the Sala dei Vetri has rare Murano hand blown glass pitchers and cups and also a collection of neoclassical miniature sculptures by Bonzanigo and Tanadei. More porcelain objects can be found in the Sala della Porcellana.

In the Sala del Settecento is an important 18th century fresco depicting the four seasons. Other rooms are dedicated to specific subjects such as silver or filigree objects, clothes and weapons.

A visit to this lovely museum will give you precious information about Vercelli and its history and it's certainly worth a trip. The museum also organises events and lectures and special activities for children and families.

The museum is open Tuesday to Friday 15.00 to 17.30 and Saturday and Sunday 10.00-12.00 and 15.00 to 18.00 Admission fees apply but entrance is free on the first Sunday of each month. Make sure you check the museum’s official site for details.

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Going Against 
the Grain

Riso di Baraggia

Going Against the Grain

Riso di Baraggia

While Italy is well known for producing some of the best varieties of rice in the world, there is one which stands out among others - specifically, Riso di Baraggia. Unlike the rice cultivated in other areas, Riso di Baraggia features certain qualities that make it both unique and deserving of its D.O.P. (Denominazione Origine Protetta) status.

The seeds sown to produce the rice must be E.N.S.E. (the national seed certification body) certified to ensure the variety’s purity.

The rice is cultivated, harvested, and processed exclusively in the provinces of Biella and Vercelli, where the crops reach maturity faster due to the frequent temperature changes caused by the winds coming down from the nearby mountains.

The unprocessed rice must also be dried using methods that avoid or minimise contamination of the grain husks. When you combine these strict rules with the ancient skills and the labour of diligent farmers, the result is a grain that is more compact, translucent, and with a lower weight and length than other types of rice.

A superior grain consistency, reduced stickiness, as well as the ability to retain its firmness after cooking have all contributed to Riso di Baraggia’s stellar reputation.

This peculiar rice is available not only in the classic varieties familiar to many such as Arborio, Baldo, and Carnaroli, but you can also find Balila, San Andrea, Loto, and Gladio varieties. As is the case with all Italian rice, each one lends itself to a particular dish:

  • Arborio - One of the most consumed varieties, it is an excellent choice for risotto.
  • Carnaroli - Its low loss of starch during cooking and good absorption qualities make it ideal for risottos and salads and is considered a fool-proof choice for less experienced cooks.
  • Balila - Perfect for timbales and rice croquettes including the famous arancini from Sicily.
  • Lotus - A good choice for side dishes.
  • San Andrea - An extremely versatile rice that works well with an array of recipes and is ideal for the Venetian classic, risi e bisi (rice and beans).

In 1952 the magazine Il Riso (‘Rice’) was launched and printed a variety of articles promoting the special characteristics of Riso di Baraggia. While for many people the best advice is to take life with a grain of salt, perhaps for those who love arancini, risotto, and any of the other delectable Italian rice dishes, we should say the best advice is to take life with a grain of Riso di Baraggia.

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Gaudenzio
Ferrari and the Renaissance

San Cristoforo Church

GaudenzioFerrari and the Renaissance

San Cristoforo Church

Vercelli’s San Cristoforo Church was built in 1515 by the Humiliati religious order on the site of a pre-existing 12th century church and is dedicated to Saint Cristopher, patron saint of the travellers. It was later given to the Jesuits and then the Barnabites.

The unimpressive Renaissance façade, modified during the 18th century and painted in the 1970s, contrasts with the richly decorated interior. The interior is divided into three naves with a transept. Both a choir and an organ were recently restored and are worth a visit.

Most of all though visitors come to San Cristoforo to admire the works of famous Renaissance artist Gaudenzio Ferrari, who spent five years in Vercelli to complete the church's decorations.

His Madonna degli Aranci (Madonna of the Oranges) altarpiece is an exquisite example of Renaissance art: the Madonna with child is depicted surrounded by saints and nine little angels, with a quince tree in the background. Erroneously thought to be an orange tree, this mistake is the reason for the painting's name.

Noteworthy also are the series of frescoes depicting the life of the Madonna and the life of Saint Mary Magdalene, each on an opposite side of the transept.

Each contains a larger, more important painting, which stands out: a huge Crucifixion in the Magdalene cycle and the Assumption in the Madonna one. One need not be an expert in Renaissance culture to admire these grand works of art and you certainly shouldn't miss them!

The church stands in a small square off the pleasant San Cristoforo road, surrounded by tastefully renovated noble houses.  It can easily be overlooked so make sure you plan your itinerary to include it in your visit to Vercelli. You won't regret it.

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Vercelli's Impressive Cathedral 

Duomo di St. Eusebio

Vercelli's Impressive Cathedral

Duomo di St. Eusebio

Vercelli's grand Cathedral, the Duomo di Sant'Eusebio, was erected over several hundred years after 1570, when cardinal Ferrero first ordered architect Tibaldi to demolish the choir of a 6th century early Christian basilica. Tibaldi was able to start works but couldn't finish the church due to a lack of funds.

Then, in 1682 a chapel was added to the south side and between 1702 and 1717 Stefano Negro built the nave, aisles and transept. The remaining parts, including the facade, were completed in 1757-63 by Benedetto Alfieri and Luigi Barberis.

The impressive and elegant façade has giant statues of the Twelve Apostles and Christ the Redeemer.

The cathedral is dedicated to Saint Eusebius, the bishop of Vercelli around 355, whose body was found on the site in 1581 and is still preserved in an urn beneath the main altar of the cathedral. Dukes Carlo I and Carlo III of Savoy, Duchess Jolanda and Vittorio Amedeo I of Savoy are also buried in the cathedral.

The church is a symmetrical, cross-shaped building with 3 naves (a central nave and two aisles) and a beautiful 19th century stone dome covered with lead and copper: with time the metal has turned  green, giving the dome its present colour. Under the huge dome is the apse with a fine wooden choir and a precious 10th century Romanesque crucifix.

Along each of the two side aisles are three minor chapels with altars dedicated to various saints. The chapel of the Blessed Amadeus IX of Savoy and the Madonna dello Schiaffo (“Madonna of the Slap”) chapel are amongst the nicest chapels in the cathedral.

Externally, the 12th century Romanesque bell tower is the only part of the old cathedral to have survived. The tall stone tower is divided into four rows of small arches with a single bell chamber surrounded by three round arches on each side.

By the middle of the 20th century the cathedral was affected by serious dampness and structural problems, leading to a series of renovation projects. The latest, most important renovation started in 2009 under Bishop Masseroni and ended in 2012.

The beautifully restored cathedral can now be visited every day. Opening hours vary so check the website for details and mass schedule.

Ph. Credits: Marco De Santis

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Two-faced Water

Vercelli's Rice Paddies

Two-faced Water

Vercelli's Rice Paddies

Walking through the Vercellese countryside during the spring and summer months is a memorable experience. Whether you see the flooded paddies reflecting the colours of the surrounding hills and sky, or fields of intense green as far as the eye can see, the Vercellese landscape is one of the most beautiful and peculiar  ones you will encounter in Piedmont.


Through the centuries, rice has been the primary form of sustenance for farmers around the Vercellese area.

Probably imported from Spain by merchants who dealt with goods from the Muslim countries, rice quickly became the predominant cultivation in eastern Piedmont. The humid Vercellese flatlands were, in fact, perfect for rice-farming. From the 15th century, rice-paddies began taking the place of traditional crops, as the cereal was more profitable than almost any other type of local cultivation.

However, rice-farming was soon outlawed: at the end of the century, the black death took its toll on the Piedmontese farmlands, and thus rice-farming was considered to be a health hazard.


The stagnant waters of rice paddies were abundant with malaria and other infectious diseases, so laws were passed to prohibit the cultivation of rice anywhere less than 10 miles away from the main towns. However, monks and priests continued to farm rice, regardless of the ban, as the clergy did not follow civil laws.

Today, malaria has been eradicated in Italy thanks to a series of national and international campaigns and rice-farming continues, thanks to modern techniques that provide running water.

Tip: when driving through the Vercellese plains, take some time to take in the beauty of this surreal landscape. If you can, make sure to plan a ride either at dawn or sunset, when the water and sky combine in a natural colour-show of pastel hues.

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From England
to Italy

Basilica di Sant'Andrea

From England to Italy

Basilica di Sant'Andrea

The Basilica of Sant'Andrea is a mostly Romanesque church which combines Cistercian elements with French and Lombard Gothic features - as such, it is a rare architectural jewel.

The elegant basilica is the symbol of Vercelli and undoubtedly the town's main attraction.

It was built as an abbey between 1219 and 1227 by Cardinal Guala Bicchieri and paid for with revenues coming from the Abbey of Saint Andrew at Chesterton in Cambridgeshire, which had been bestowed to him by his young ward, Henry III of England. The church was consecrated in 1225 and has been maintained in good condition since then, with careful renovations carried out during the 16th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The façade, with two tall brick towers connected by two rows of loggias, has three gates and a beautiful rose window in the middle. The fine white and light blue stone of the main body of the building contrasts with the red brick of the towers creating a pleasant chromatic effect.


Curiosity: a bell tower, detached from the church, was added in 1407.

The relatively bare Gothic interior has a Latin cross plan, with a central nave and two side aisles separated by high pointed arcades. Each side has two chapels. At the end of the nave is the transept with two wooden confessionals dating back to the late 17th century. The choir has finely decorated stalls with pictures of cities, religious objects, still lives and even a 16th century representation of the basilica with its old enclosure walls.

In the first chapel to the left is a beautiful 15th century wooden crucifix while the second chapel to the right contains the tomb of Tommaso Gallo, the first abbot of Sant’Andrea. A beautiful 1839 wooden organ can also be admired.

From the chapter house, with a fresco of the Madonna and Child by Bernardino Lanino, a gate leads to the cloister and to what remains of the original monastery.The former monastery, which now houses the University of Eastern Piedmont, has some interesting rooms such as the Studio Piccolo (the small study) and the grand main hall, now used as lecture hall.

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A Jewish Gem

The Vercelli Synagogue

A Jewish Gem

The Vercelli Synagogue

Walking along the Via Foa, in the heart of the former Jewish Ghetto, one hardly notices the beautiful building that houses the Vercelli Synagogue, discretely nestled amongst other palaces - and yet the building is of astounding beauty and one of the largest Jewish temples in Italy.

Vercelli's best kept secret is even hard to find on Jewish websites, as it stood nearly abandoned for many years before restorations began in 2007. Today the synagogue, although not used for religious services, is an active cultural centre for the very small local Jewish community.

The original and ambitious design for the temple was commissioned to famous Vercelli architect Marco Treves in 1864 and these designs were expanded by engineer Giuseppe Locarni in 1874. The building was completed in 1878.

The limestone façade, with a higher central bay, four small turrets and a large round window, has a pattern of white and light blue horizontal stripes, typical of Eastern European Synagogues but also similar to the stripping found in so many famous Italian cathedrals. 

Decorative elements and inscriptions in Hebrew can be found on the façade. To access the building you will pass through a gate and a small front yard. The interior has a central nave with side aisles marked by columns and decorations combining Moorish and Classical features.

Some elements are typical of Christian architecture and less common in Jewish temples, for example the large wooden pulpit and the organ. This shows the strong influence of Italian, mainly Christian, architectural elements in the design of the building.

The synagogue can only be visited on certain dates. Check the following website for details on upcoming events and open days:  vercelliebraica.jimdo.com

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A Castle of Dreams

Avogadro Castle and 
Chapel of Saint Peter

A Castle of Dreams

Avogadro Castle and Chapel of Saint Peter

With approximately 400 inhabitants and an area of not much more than 10 square km, Quinto is a small village in the Vercelli plains which is proud of its own medieval castle, a reminder of a time when the small hamlet was at the centre of major military and political events.

The castles dates back to the 12th century but was completely renovated by the Avogadro family in the 15th century, after they acquired the property from the Biandrate lords. The castle belonged to the Avogadros until 1922, when the last remaining member of the family died without heirs. Today it is owned by the Town of Vercelli.

The manor has a rectangular structure with two round towers and a series of buildings with different heights which give the stronghold a rather irregular shape. Part of the property was used for farming purposes.

Of the original structure, particularly noteworthy is the fine Romanesque Chapel of Saint Peter, with several layers of frescoes dating back to different centuries and recently uncovered by careful restoration. Remains of a large fresco depicting Saint Christopher and a fresco of the Madonna with Child are the oldest examples found in the chapel. Other works include paintings of Saint Lorenzo and Saint Stefano, a Crucifixion and interesting frescoes depicting saints and religious subjects.

The castle was completely restructured in 2006 and is now used for gastronomical, historical and cultural events. The cards tournament "il Castello dei Sogni" (Castle of Dreams) takes place in September and is a must for all games enthusiasts.

The castle can of course also be hired for private functions and weddings. Check the official site for upcoming events and opening hours.

Ph. Credits: Roberto Mosso.

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Exotic Biscuits from the Heart of Piedmont 

Vercelli's Bicciolani

Exotic Biscuits from the Heart of Piedmont

Vercelli's Bicciolani

Vercelli Bicciolani or Biciulan are shortcrust biscuits produced in the area following an old traditional recipe. They are made with wheat flour, potato starch, sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, honey and coriander; it is this combination of spices gives the biscuits their distinctive spicy flavour.

These spices were introduced to the area during the Renaissance and Bicciolani are commonly believed to have been created during this period, although other sources date them back to 1809 or even 1859, the period of the Austrian occupation during the war of independence.

The mix of exotic spices coming from the Middle East and local ingredients brought some people to refer to Bicciolani as "Arab" pastries, although the name Biciulan comes from Carlin Belletti, known as Bicciolano, a legendary freedom fighter who lived in Vercelli between the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century. He fought against tyranny and abuse in a period of general unrest and revolt.

Curiosity: Bicciolano's myth became so widespread that Vercelli's popular carnival masks today are Bicciolano and his wife Bela Majin, a clear symbol of political and spiritual rebellion.

Today almost every bakery in Vercelli produces delicious Bicciolani and most households in the area consume them regularly. They can also be home baked and make a delicious teatime treat for everybody.

If you want to try Bicciolani in Vercelli head to famous Pasticceria Folllis, where the biscuits have been baked following the original recipe since 1904 and the owners are proud to offer clients a genuine and traditional product which has made the history of the town.

Should you wish to bake them yourself, several recipes are available online, chocolate or lemon extract can be added to create different varieties of the pastries. Bicciolani are also particularly suitable to be served with sweet white wine.

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The Place Where All the Magic Happens 

Balocco Proving Ground

The Place Where All the Magic Happens

Balocco Proving Ground

The "pista sperimentale di Balocco" was completed in 1962 by famous Milan car manufacturer Alfa Romeo and has been used as a test track since 1964. At the time when cars were increasingly becoming part of our culture and a symbol of wealth and status, the circuit was seen as a product of Italian ingenuity and success.


As one of the most advanced and unique sites of the time the test facility soon became an important development centre for the automotive industry and a popular place where "magic was performed". It was modeled after some of the most challenging racecar circuits in Europe, with sections reproducing demanding Formula 1 segments such as the Curva Grande in Monza or the Hugenholtzbocht in Zandvoort.

The first car model to be tested on the site was the famous Alfa Romeo Giulia, an icon of Italian automotive culture. Today, the recently released version of Giulia was also tested at Balocco as were other popular contemporary models such as Jeep Renegade and Panda.

Today the complex belongs to the FCA Group and is used to test both commercial and non-commercial vehicles. The original circuit has been extended to include a fast race track, a 22-km long "Langhe" circuit and an "off road" section used to test performance and durability in different terrain conditions.

Later additions include the Comfort Track, used to test suspension systems, the ABS track, the Steering Pad and a Noise Testing Circuit. Balocco Test facility now extends over some 500 hectares with a total of over 76 kilometres of tracks. Over 20,000 vehicles are tested on average every year, for a stunning total of 9,000,000 kilometres driven!

The Balocco Ground is a must for car lovers and passionate drivers - despite being the property of FCA the circuit is available to other manufacturers and can be booked for corporate events, as a club motorsport venue or even for safe driving courses.

Ph. credits: Fucina Editore.

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A Bean Worth Fighting For 

The Villata Bean

A Bean Worth Fighting For

The Villata Bean

Fagiolo della Villata is a climbing bean variety grown in the area of Villata, a village north of Vercelli. Due to its characteristics and long farming tradition it became a slow food product in 2013 and as such it is part of the Ark of Taste, a network developed by Slow Food to preserve and promote traditional products.

This particular climbing variety, belonging to the native Phaseolus vulgaris type, has difficulty clinging to the supports in the field and is therefore grown in combination with medium-height corn. The growing corn pulls the bean plant upwards and promotes setting of buds along the plant stem.

The plant itself has medium to light green leaves and the mature beans are light cream in colour and have a long kidney shape.

The enduring presence of this plant in the territory is documented by records found in the Villata Archives. Amongst these are some pertaining to a 1738 litigation case about dowry with a wedding menu which lists the following local dishes: "salam of the doja, pork sausage and blood ovals; stewed frogs' legs; stuffed frogs' legs; fried frogs' legs; deep fried chickpea dough with beans from Villata and matured salami; fried meats; sweet breads and goods… "


In other 19th century documents found in the archives Villata beans were listed as one of the ingredients of “deep fried chickpea dough recipe. For four persons: 50 grams of lard, oil, veal, salami fat, peas and beans from Villata, 8 bags of rice and corn cook and store…”

Today, the beans are used for a typical local dish called panissa which is a rice and bread soup very popular in the Vercelli area.

But celebrity comes at a price: Villata beans are very similar to their peers Saluggia beans and Saluggia residents didn't take the Slow Food award very well. In an article in the local press called "the challenge of the bean" a resident claims that Saluggia beans have been cultivated since at least 1534 and are the real main ingredient of popular Panissa. A symbolical challenge in the name of tradition and culinary culture.

 Whichever the winner, don't miss the opportunity to try these tasty beans and award your own special prize!

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A Rediscovered Treasure 

Vercelli Cathedral Treasure Museum

A Rediscovered Treasure

Vercelli Cathedral Treasure Museum

The Museum of the Cathedral Treasure was founded in 2015 with the aim of preserving, restoring and promoting the rich collection of works of art, objects and books kept in the Cathedral of St. Eusebio and in the Archbishop's Palace, in Vercelli.

Through a carefully laid out itinerary visitors follow the various stages of the city's history and can gather information about the different periods with focus not only on religious matters but also on artistic, political and social movements.

Renaissance fabrics and jewels show the more mundane aspects of life whereas beautifully crafted and decorated reliquaries, chalices and prayer books dating back to different centuries are just some of the objects on display testifying to the long religious tradition of the city.

The museum includes the art gallery (Pinacoteca Arcivescovile) and the Papal Rooms, where Pope John Paul II resided during his visit in 1998.

The art gallery is open on the first Saturday of every month and contains a precious collection of paintings. Situated on the main floor of the palace, it is accessed via the lavish Sala del Trono (Throne Room). The works displayed come mostly from convents and monasteries which were suppressed during the Napoleonic period and are attributed to artists from the 15th to 17th century such as Pietro Grammorseo, Bernardino Lanino, Gerolamo Giovenone and Giuseppe Giovenone il Giovane.

The Library (Biblioteca Capitolare) can only be visited by appointment and is open to scholars, collectors or anybody interested in manuscripts and books.

It houses a formidable collection of precious manuscripts and documents, among them works by St. Isidore of Seville and the world famous Vercelli Book, one of the four major manuscripts of Old English literature, the other three being the Exeter Book, the Junius Manuscript, and the Beowulf Manuscript.

The Vercelli Book, a collection of six poems and twenty-three prose writings, was probably brought to Vercelli by Anglo-Saxon pilgrims, although it is not clear how and when.

The cleverly designed and informative website of the museum is divided into three main sections: general public, scholars and teachers. Each type visitor can find the appropriate information on collections, opening hours, activities and events.

Tip: make sure you check the website before visiting to make the most of your tour.

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A Journey Through the Seasons  

Museo Etnografico L'Civel

A Journey Through the Seasons

Museo Etnografico L'Civel

The village of Casalbeltrame, situated between the towns of Vercelli and Novara, has been awarded the title "cittaslow" (slow town) in 2001 because of its endeavour to guarantee quality life and environmentally friendly spaces and services.

Among the notable sites of the town is the L'Civel Ethnographic Museum, a jewel of its kind.

Named after the dialect word Civel (which means a clatch for cart wheels), the museum is a journey back in time to rediscover old farming traditions and methods.

Walking along the exhibition visitors are accompanied by three valuable guides: a real person who can answer all questions one might have, a "narrator", i.e. a background voice telling the stories of the country from the perspective of an old ballad singer and a virtual, high tech guide that can be downloaded on one's tablet or phone. This last guide gives information about modern rice growing techniques and details on the newest trends.

The itinerary follows the seasons and the different phases of farming life and is centred on the growing of rice in the area.

Video footage and multimedia displays show pictures of how the land changes during the different seasons and how the rice fields transform themselves from winter to the harvest time in summer, also finally describing the traditional fair of St. Martin on 11th November which closes the agricultural cycle.

A visit makes the perfect day out for families wanting to show their children aspects of country life they might not know and for all lovers of nature.

The museum is open on Sundays between 3.00 pm and 6.00 pm in April, May, June, September, October and November. For the remaining times of the year it's best to seek information on +39 3474709258 or museo@casalbeltrameonline.it

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The Red Church

The Church of San Giuliano in Vercelli

The Red Church

The Church of San Giuliano in Vercelli

This beautiful small church, situated in via Foa in the old centre of Vercelli, has a very long history. Documents dating back to 1147 already refer to the parish church but other sources point to a much earlier, Romanesque origin.

The present structure is the product of various subsequent renovations carried out over the centuries.

Important works were done in the 16th century which changed the structure of the church completely. Later renovations took place in 1848, 1880 and between 1960 and 1970 all giving the building its present appearance. Further enhancements were done in 2014, in particular to restore the frescoes in the interior.

Known as the "red church", St. Giuliano has a plain though elegant red-pink façade with a rather imposing bell tower and a welcoming and pleasantly decorated interior.

The three naves have colourful frescoes throughout: on the main altar is the Adoration of the Magi and on the left-hand altar is the Resurrection of Christ, both by the late school of Gaudenzio Ferrari (late 16th century). Other paintings are attributed to Gerolamo Giovenone and Bernardino Lanino (1547).

Today it is no longer a parish church as it is part of the Sant' Agnese in San Francesco parish. The church is open to the public but restrictions may apply during religious services.

Ph. Credits: Andrea Cherchi

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A Grand Castle in the Smallest Village

The Castle of Balocco

Open only by appointment, the castle of Balocco is a hidden gem of the Vercellese countryside.

A City with a Medieval Skyline 

Vercelli and its Towers

Built by powerful local families, Vercelli's medieval towers characterise the city's skyline.

A Grand Castle in the Smallest Village

The Castle of Balocco

The small village of Balocco, with little more than 250 inhabitants, was and still is an agricultural centre in the Vercelli area. The presence of a parish church is quoted in a document dating back to the year 999, when the village was known as Badalaucum.

12th century manuscripts describe a castrum, a fortified structure which included the church within its walls.

This original building was nearly completely destroyed by the Visconti troops in 1401 and burnt to the ground in a later assault in 1413 during the fierce fight for power between the Rovasenda family and the neighbouring Savoy lands. After the final defeat of the Rovasendas, Balocco became part of the Savoy territories. The present castle was built in 1423 on the site of the pre-existing manor and the imposing stone building, with its two towers and compact structure, now stands on the main road of the village. 

The interior is decorated with early 15th century frescoes depicting religious subjects; particularly noteworthy is the beautiful Madonna with Child.

Belonging to the complex are a small farmhouse and the aforementioned parish church of San Michele Arcangelo, restructured in 2014 and worth a visit. The castle is only open by appointment or during special events. Fairs, art exhibitions and concerts are organised by the local tourist office and advertised on the township website (www.comunedibalocco.it). Check online or call for details.

Curiosity: on a clear day directly behind the beautiful castle one can enjoy stunning views over the Alps.

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A City with a Medieval Skyline

Vercelli and its Towers

Like many other Italian towns Vercelli has a number of medieval towers built by influential families in order to demonstrate their power and wealth. The three main towers are the Torre dell'Angelo, the Torre Avogadro or Torre di San Marco and the Torre dei Tizzoni. Other towers include the Torre Comunale and the Torre dei Vialardi.

The Torre dell'Angelo (Angel Tower) was built between the 14th and the 15th centuries. It stands on Vercelli's main square, piazza Cavour, and has a square base and an octagonal main structure with a peculiar top addition built in 1875. According to popular belief a man once threw himself from the tower and was supposedly saved by an angel, hence the name. Torre dell'Angelo, undoubtedly the symbol of Vercelli, is undergoing major renovations that should make it structurally safe and accessible to the public in the near future.

13th century Avogadro or San Marco Tower is the bell-tower of the parish church of S. Marco but was probably part of a previously existing block of houses belonging to the Avogadros, one of the most important and richest Guelph families in the town.

The octagonal plan is typical of the patrician towers of Vercelli. Today both church and tower belong to the township and are not open to the public. Plans to transform the area into an archaeological park are being considered.

The octagonal Torre dei Tizzoni is part of 15th century Tizzoni palace. According to legend Maria, belonging to the Guelph Avogadro family, was imprisoned in the tower by Ghibelline Pietro Tizzoni, who had fallen in love with her. The girl, known for her pure and charitable nature, resisted Tizzoni's flatteries and thanks to her virtuous behavior she managed to reconcile the two opposing families and make Pietro Tizzoni repent for his sins. This explains the tower's popular name "the honest daughter's tower".

The tower and palace are both currently in need of renovation. Campaigning by the FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) should help raise consciousness and the necessary funding for renovation, which will allow visitors to enjoy the beautiful frescoes by Guglielmo Caccia found in the hall of the building but at the moment only accessible during special events.

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