Visiting Vercelli in the Piedmont Region: Advice From a Local

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An hour by train from Milan and Turin, Vercelli is a stop to consider if you are traveling in the northern Italian regions of Piedmont and Lombardy. Vercelli is definitely not as well known as some of its counterparts but full of surprises even for those who have lived nearby their entire lives. It is one of the three cities known for its rice cultivation and part of the so-called “rice triangle” along with Novara and Pavia. Vercelli is also known as the “city of the seven championships” in honor of the golden days of the Pro Vercelli football team at the beginning of the twentieth century. Above all, it is called the “eight-hour city” because it was Vercelli that first reduced the work day in the rice fields to 8 hours.
Of course, you could easily explore the historic center on your own where you’ll find many churches, historic buildings, and wonderful views, but if you’d like to come along with me on this virtual tour through Vercelli and its province, I will show you a must-see itinerary whether you are driving or using public transportation.

The First Stop: Sant’Andrea Basilica and the Duomo

Our journey begins near the station with two churches that are, in my opinion, magnificent: the Basilica of Sant’Andrea and the Duomo. The first, designed by Guala Bicchieri at the beginning of the thirteenth century, is immediately striking for its gray-green stone facade, interrupted by white and red marble, and for its two Gothic bell towers.
The second in honor of the first bishop of the city, Sant’Eusebio, was built with a Latin cross plan divided into three naves. Inside, you’ll find works of art including the Ottonian Crucifix and the Madonna dello Schiaffo (the Virgin, in marble, has a dark spot on her cheek).
On the right, is Piazza d’Angennes from which you can access the Museo del Tesoro del Duomo which houses one of the most important collections of reliquaries in northern Italy as well as the Vercelli Book, a parchment manuscript containing numerous texts of Old English poetry dating to the tenth century.

Visconti Castle and the Borgogna Museum

Continuing your walk, admire the Visconti Castle, which is now the courthouse. And if you like art galleries and have time for a more in-depth visit, the Borgogna Museum with Renaissance works such as those by Bernardino Lanino, Gaudenzio and Defendente Ferrari but also contemporary such as those of Induno, Morbelli and Cominetti.

Piazza Cavour the Tower of the Angel

Next stop? The “sitting room” of Vercelli, Piazza Cavour, which takes its name from the monument of Camillo Benso, count of Cavour in the center (the two allegorical figures of Commerce and Agriculture also appear at his feet). Under the arcades, you can find cafes and restaurants for all tastes where you can enjoy an aperitif, stop for a lunch break or have a coffee outdoors. Weather permitting, you can sit and admire the Torre dell’Angelo which can be visited in recent weeks thanks to the collaboration between the Municipality and the Fai Giovani group of Vercelli.
Part of the square since the fourteenth century, the tower has a square base but with a late Gothic octagonal body. Its name derives from the intervention of an angel that saved a fallen man, or, depending on the version, the tower itself.
A few steps away is Piazza Palazzo Vecchio (known by Vercelli residents as Piazza “dei Pesci”), where you’ll find the Jewish Synagogue built in Via Foa in the 19th century and now open for guided tours.

vercelli-centro storico

Vercelli’s “Sistine Chapel”

The Church of San Cristoforo, located between the Vercelli Town Hall and Camana Park, deserves a mention because, with its spectacular Renaissance paintings by Gaudenzio Ferrari, it is known as the “Sistine Chapel of Vercelli”.
Another must-see is the Leone Museum, which includes Casa Alciati and Palazzo Langosco, rooms that tell the entire history of the area from antiquity to the twentieth century.

Arca Exhibition Center

Last, only because it closes much later than the others, but certainly not least, is the Polo Espositivo Arca. This museum is housed in the ancient Church of San Marco for temporary exhibitions such as Manzù opened in recent months. In the past, it has also collaborated with the Guggenheim Foundation. Through 21 May, the exhibition entitled “Sculpture Is a Ray of Moonlight” includes almost fifty sculptures in marble, bronze, and ebony made between the 1950s and the early 2000s.

have you already chosen vercelli as your destination?

In the Vercellese Area: Lucedio and the Rice Fields

If you have the opportunity to stay in the Vercelli area for another day and you are traveling by car, I recommend Lucedio and its bell tower. Almost all of the abbey is privately managed but it is possible to book a guided tour on Sundays (when it is not busy for weddings or other events), while the bell tower is owned by the province and was opened by volunteers from FAI Giovani Vercelli in March along with other hidden treasures in the area such as Palazzo Paleologo, the Museo Civico Irico in Trino and Palazzo Pastoris in Saluggia.

For those who do not have a car in Vercelli but would like to have a different experience, it is worth a half-day trip pedaling through the rice fields (flooded between the end of April and the beginning of May and therefore more picturesque) towards Novara which will welcome you from afar with the view of the dome of San Gaudenzio but this is another story, another city and another journey…

If, on the other hand, you’re not traveling by car, and you’d like to have a unique outdoor experience, I recommend a half-day trip pedaling through the rice fields (flooded between the end of April and the beginning of May and more picturesque) towards Novara which will welcome you from afar with a view of the San Gaudenzio dome. But, that’s another story, another city, and another journey…

The last piece of advice I want to give you is to follow the various events sponsored by FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano) which, after the success of the first dates, will reopen the Torre dell’Angelo the first three weekends of May. In the coming months, there will be many more rare openings as well.

Photo copyrights: Aurora Giribuola

About the Author

Aurora Giribuola

Born in 1997, I am a girl who lives and works between Vercelli and Turin but as soon as I can, I leave for the weekend. There is never enough time to see this immense world full of adventures just waiting to be experienced!

Following the Covid epidemic restrictions and the limitations I experienced while traveling in France, my passion for travel grew immensely.

I’m a fairly calm person but I have never been able to stay in one place for very long. Rather than sitting under a beach umbrella, I’d much prefer exploring different beaches, art cities, and small villages. Volunteering for the FAI organization, I am also constantly finding out about new places for my next adventure.

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