What To Do In Vercelli?

Vercelli is located approximately in the halfway between Turin and Milan in the middle of the fertile flood plain of the Po Valley. The plain between Vercelli and Novara was once a huge swamp area that was drained by monks and used for agriculture. Even in antiquity, people used the fertile land on the Sesia river and settled here. Vercelli was on the Roman trade route Via Francigena. The cultivation of rice made Vercelli rich.

In the Middle Ages Vercelli was an important bishopric, which was even allowed to mint gold coins.
If you drive through the plain around Vercelli, you will notice the large underwater fields. Rice is still grown along the course of the river and canals, and Vercelli is the largest European rice-growing region and the main factor in the economy.

Vercelli is a city rich in history, treasures and works of art. The central Piazza Cavour with the neoclassical cathedral is surrounded by medieval, Gothic and Renaissance buildings and is dominated by the Torre dell’Angelo tower.

What To See In Vercelli?

The heart of Vercelli beats in the central Piazza Cavour. The Roman Forum was already here in ancient times. Today, the beautiful 14th century tower Torre dell’Angelo dominates Piazza Cavour. City palaces with arcades shape the image of the beautiful square. Right next to Piazza Cavour is Piazza Palazzo Vecchio, which locals call “Piazza dei Pesci”. In Piazza Palazzo Vecchio you will find the ancient Broletto and the city tower from the 13th century.

The Basilica of Sant’Andrea dates from the early 13th century. With its four towers, it is a masterpiece of the Romanesque-Gothic style in northern Italy. The floor plan of the elegant basilica is a Latin cross. This was typical of the construction of the Benedictine Cistercians. The bell tower was built at the beginning of the 15th century and the cloister was renewed in the 16th century.

Construction of the cathedral began at the end of the fourth century at the request of Eusebio, the first bishop of Vercelli and Piedmont. This first church was dedicated to the Christian martyr San Teonesto and was then on the outskirts of the city near the cemetery. In the 5th century it was replaced by a basilica modeled on the Roman church of San Pietro. The Romanesque bell tower and the crucifix made of silver foil from the 10th century, a masterpiece of Ottonian art, are still preserved. The classical style porch dates from 1572. The last was the dome in 1860. Today’s cathedral is dedicated to the founder of the church of Sant’Eusebio.

Vercelli is an important city for the Italian Jewish community. Already in 1146 there was a Jewish community, the number of which grew to 600 by 1848. At the beginning of the 19th century, the synagogue was built in the middle of the ancient Hebrew ghetto. The facade of the synagogue is decorated with oriental battlements in the upper area. There is a sculpture on the watchtower depicting the law board with the 10 commandments.

The first settlements date back to the Bronze Age around 2000 BC. In the 6th century BC the Celts settled on the fertile land of the Po Valley and later Gauls and Romans settled here. Even in pre-Roman times, the area was valued as pasture and cattle land and developed into a thriving commercial and economic metropolis in the Roman Empire. The Roman historians Tacito and Plinio the Elder described Vercelli as a thriving city, rich in forests and fertile pastureland where cattle, pigs and sheep were kept.

Vercelli was located at a critical traffic junction between Novara, Turin and Milano, as well as the Mediterranean and the Alps. This enabled a lively trade that brought valuable goods into the city. After the 2nd Punic War, Roman rule began in Vercelli. The “Municipium Vercellae” was founded in 49 BC as a symbol of a Roman city. During this time an amphitheater, streets, aqueducts and public baths were built. Vercelli has been going up and down over the centuries. Numerous wars destroyed and depopulated the city, including the Goths in 401, later Attila and the Huns in 451. Vercelli came under the Lombard and later French rule from the 6th to the 8th centuries.
Cultivating rice and trading this valuable food has made Vercelli rich. In the Middle Ages Vercelli was an important bishopric, which was even allowed to mint gold coins.

The castle was built by Matteo Visconti in 1290 and later passed to the Savoy. The castle was badly damaged during the Spanish siege in 1638. The castle was later used as a prison before it was converted into the Palace of Justice in 1838.

The city palace was built by the Centori patrician family in the 15th century. The Renaissance was just arriving and the Palazzo Centori is one of the finest examples of the Renaissance in Vercelli. The rectangular courtyard bears the Bramante architectural style. The arches are supported by ten columns. The loggia above it has the same arches but twice the number of columns. Above it are other pillars that support the vault. The fresco paintings are particularly beautiful. The palace was fully restored from 1929 to 1934 and renovated in 2017. It is used for cultural events.

Where there was once a portico with pointed arches, a hostel was built on it in 1223 to receive pilgrims. A 13th century bezel is painted over the entrance. The great hall is decorated with frescoes from the 17th century. It is divided into three naves with late Gothic vaults and cross-shaped columns. Today the Salone Dugentesco is used for concerts and other cultural events.

The Francesco Borgogna Museum is located in the Palazzo Ferrero and houses the most important Piedmontese painting collection after the Galleria Sabauda (Savoyard Gallery) in Turin. Fancesco Borgogna was a philanthropist and art collector from Vercelli. In 1882 he bought the neoclassical Palazzo Ferrero and turned it into a house museum. After his death in 1906, he stated in his will that the Palazzo Ferrero should be preserved as a house museum. The Francesco Borgogna Museum now houses around 800 works, including certificates of the Vercelli school from the Renaissance, paintings by Titian, Carracci, Bernardino Luini. Decorative art works such as Roman mosaics and Dresden porcelain enrich the collection.

Piedmont Map

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