Novara Tourist Attractions
The provincial capital of Novara lies in the Piedmontese plain between the rivers Sesia (to the west) and Ticino (to the east). The distance between Novara and the more easterly situated city of Milan is some 40km/25mi. Novara is an industrial town with a varied range of industry and a large map-making institute (De Agostini).
Novara is surrounded by a ring of attractive boulevards on the line of the old fortifications. In the center of the town, in the arcaded Via Fratelli Rosselli, stands the cathedral, built between 1865 and 1869 in place of an earlier church. The relief on the main altar is by Thorwaldsen. It has an attractive cloister, entered from the south aisle. There is an important museum, the Museo Lapidario and to the west of the cathedral, opposite the imposing entrance court is a fifth century baptistery, with 10th century frescoes.
Municipal Museum and Art Gallery
North of the cathedral in Novara, reached by way of the beautiful courtyard of the Broletto (Municipal Museum and Art Gallery), is the Corso Italia, one of the town's two main traffic arteries (the other being the Corso Cavour).
A little way north of the Broletto, at the end of Via Gaudenzio Ferrari, the church of San Gaudenzio (by Pellegrino Tibaldi, 1577) has a prominent dome (1875-78). Inside are some fine frescoes, a wooden crucifix by Gaudenzio Ferrari and a painting of St Gaudenzio by Pelagio Palagi (c. 1830). Note also the silver sarcophagus of St Gaudenzio, patron saint of Novara.
Piazza Martiri della Libertà
West of the cathedral in Novara is the large Piazza Martiri della Libertà, with the Teatro Coccia and the Palazzo del Mercato (1840). On the south side is the rebuilt Castello Sforzesco, once the residence of the ruling Milanese princes.
The surroundings of Naovara include Varallo Sesia and Lake Orta.
There is a very attractive drive (northwest) up the Sesia valley to Varallo Sesia (450m/1,485ft; pop. 8,000), charmingly situated in the Pre-Alps at the mouth of the narrow valley of the Mastallone, the birthplace of the painter Gaudenzio Ferrari (c. 1480-1546). The collegiate church of San Gaudenzio is picturesquely situated on a crag and another fine church, the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, has frescoes by Gaudenzio Ferrari (1507-13).
At Santa Maria begins the ascent, with Stations of the Cross, to the Sacro Monte (608m/2,006ft). On the summit of the hill are 44 chapels with painted terracotta groups and frescoes depicting scenes from the scriptural story; in the 38th chapel is a Crucifixion by Gaudenzio Ferrari.
36km/22mi beyond Varallo, beautifully situated at the head of the Sesia valley, is Alagna Valsesia, from which a cableway (20minutes) runs up via Zaroltu (1,825m/6,023ft) and the Bocchetta delle Pisse (2,406m/7,940ft) to the Punta Indren (3,260m/10,758ft), a southern outlier of Monte Rosa.
North of Novara is Lake Orta, the Roman Lacus Cucius (area 18 sq.km/ 6.25 sq.mi, greatest depth 143m/472ft), the southern end of which is particularly beautiful.
Orta San Giulio
In a picturesque setting at the foot of the Monte d'Orta or Sacro Monte di San Francesco (401m/1,323ft; 20 pilgrimage chapels; view of Monte Rosa) is the little town of Orta San Giulio (293m/967ft; pop. 1,000). In the main square is the Town Hall (1592); from the west end of the square there is a beautiful view of the Isola San Giulio, with a church traditionally said to have been founded by St Julius in 390 (rebuilt in the 11th and 12th centuries). There is a pleasant drive up Monte Mottarone (1,491m/4,920ft), from which there are panoramic views.
South of Novara is the old town of Vercelli (131m/432ft; pop. 53,000), the Roman Vercellae; it is the see of an archbishop, the center of the largest rice-growing area in Europe and has many fine old churches. In the north of the town, near the station, stands the cathedral, remodeled in Baroque style, with the exception of the tower, from the 16th century onwards; the cathedral library contains valuable manuscripts. A short distance southwest is the imposing four-towered church of Sant'Andrea (1219-24), one of Italy's first buildings in Gothic style. The adjoining Cistercian abbey has a beautiful cloister. In the southern part of the town is the Dominican church of San Cristoforo, with frescoes by Gaudenzio Ferrari. The Museo Borgogna has fine work of Renaissance painters from Vercelli and its surrounding, as well as pictures by other Italian painters.South of Vercelli, on the road to Casale, were the Campi Raudii, where the Roman consul Marius defeated the Cimbri in 101 B.C.
Drive from Novara to Vigenvano (about 55km,34 miles)
31km/19mi east of Novara is Magenta (138m/455ft; pop. 24,000), scene of the famous battle on June fourth 1859 in which the French and Piedmontese defeated the Austrians, who thereupon withdrew from Lombardy (church of San Martino, built in 1903 to commemorate the victory; charnel-house).
9km/5.5 mi south of Magenta in Abbiategrasso (120m/396ft; pop. 27,000) stands the fine parish church of San Maria Nuova (façade by Bramante, 1497).
12km/7mi southwest of Abbiategrasso is Vigevano (116m/383ft; pop. 66,000). In the Piazza Ducale, the central square designed by Bramante, are arcades which still preserve remains of their Early Renaissance decoration. Other features of interest are the 16th century cathedral, the Visconti castle, rebuilt by Bramante and da Vinci in 1491-94, and the Church of San Pietro Martire with a fine campanile.