Novara in Piedmont

Novara in Piedmont

Novara is the second largest city in the Piedmont region. It is characterized by a beautiful neoclassical architecture of the 19th century. Novara’s landmark is the dome of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio.

The province of Novara is separated from the Lombardy region with the Ticino river and in its northern part with Lake Maggiore. The province is embedded in the rice-growing regions of the Sesia and Ticino rivers (Ticino) and surrounded by vineyards and castles.

Between the rivers Terdoppio and Agogna lies the provincial capital Novara. It has a rich history and legends with ancient roots. Novara is 50km from Milan and 100km from Turin. After Turin, Novara is the most populous city in Piedmont.

Novara was probably a Ligurian center in the 5th century BC. Later it was ruled by Gauls, Celts and Romans. It was on the road between Vercellae (Vercelli) and Mediolanum (Milan). Julius Caesar built the municipality in the 1st century BC.  During this period, Novara became a thriving economic center in northern Italy. The rectangular Roman architectural style is still visible in the city center today. Remains of the Roman city wall are exhibited in the municipal museums and in the Lapidario Museum.

In the early Middle Ages around 569, the Longobards occupied Novara. After the Franks in 774, Novara was conquered by Pombia, and later fought with Barbarossa. Novara joined the Lega Lombarda in 1167. Over the centuries, the rulers changed from the Spanish, the Sforza (1448), and the French before the city fell to Austria in the Peace of Utrecht. In 1734 the Savojans took over.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Novara experienced a dynamic industrial development, which was manifested by the railway connection and the foundation of the university. Gaspare Campari invented his famous liquor here in Novara in 1860, but built his factory in Milan.

What To See In Novara?

The 121-meter-high dome of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio is Novara’s landmark. The basilica was built at the end of the 16th to the middle of the 17th century. It was built by Pellegrino Pellegrini, called Tibaldi. In the 19th century it received an impressive dome in the neoclassical style with a height of 121m. The architect of the dome was Alessandro Antonelli (1798-1888). He completed the construction of the dome tower of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio in 1878. He also created the Turin landmark, the “Mole Antonelliana”.

The statue of Salvatore is enthroned on its top. Also worth mentioning is the 18th century bell tower by Benedetto Alfieri and the treasures inside the basilica. Francesco Castelli’s crypt contains the urn and the clothes of San Gaudenzio, the first bishop and patron of Novara. In the birth chapel there is a very beautiful winged altar by Gaudenzio Ferrari.

The cathedral of Santa Maria was built in the second half of the 19th century on the remains of the cathedral from the Romanesque period, including a large fragment of the mosaic floor and the baptismal font.

Next to the sacristy is the San Siro chapel from the second half of the 17th century, built as a private oratory of the bishop. Scenes from the life of San Siro are depicted on three walls.

Corso Cavour is one of the most important inner-city streets, named after the marble monument of Count Camillo Cavour, which is located at the end of the street.

If you follow the opposite direction, you will reach the pedestrian zone. In addition to elegant houses and shops, Corso Cavour has the Monserrato church with its baroque interior.

Officially, the square with its cozy arcades and street cafes is called Piazza Cesare Battisti, but for the residents, the heart of the city remains its Piazza delle Erbe.

Also worth seeing in Novara are the Church of San Marco, the Broletto (former Palace of Tarhaus and Justice) opposite the cathedral, the Baptistery, the defensive castle of Sforza, Palazzo Cabrino at the beginning of Via Fratelli Rosselli (municipal offices), and Palazzo Natta (prefecture ).

It all started in a small bar in Novara: the coffee of friendship. Gaspare Campari bought the bar in 1860 and developed new recipes for a bitter liqueur. In 1862 Gaspare Campari moved to Milan with the company. After years of ups and downs between Turin and Novara, he opened the “Caffè Campari”, first under the “Coperto dei Figini” (now the right side of the cathedral square), then in the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which was newly inaugurated in 1867.

Gaspare Campari makes his own bitter liqueur and prepares it in a small distillery under his coffee. The caffè closed in 1920 and the family concentrated on the production of liqueur. Today you can still try a real Campari in the bar Camparino in Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan.

Novara and Vercelli are the centers of the largest rice-growing areas in Italy. Risotto is a regional specialty and you can try it in all its variations. “Risotto con Asparagi” (risotto with fresh asparagus) or “Risotto al Barolo” (risotto with Barolo) are particularly tasty.

Another specialty is Gorgonzola cheese, a popular blue cheese that is not inferior to the French Roquefort in its piquant note. The curious thing: Not in Gorgonzola near Milan, but in Novara there is a consortium of Gorgonzola cheese.

Novara is surrounded by flat land. It is the Padana, the largest plain in Europe. It is also called Po Valley. It has a rich soil for agriculture and hosts a number of nature reserves especially alongt the rivers. Just outside Novara is the Parco Naturale Valle del Ticino. It is nice for afternoon walks in this UNESCO listed Biosphere Reserve.

Piedmont Map

You can hover over the dots on the map to see the name of the city. A click will bring you to the page of that city.

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