Novara is the next city you want to visit! – Discover our cities series
Going through a squared sea and proceeding straight ahead guided by the majestic dome of the basilica of San Gaudenzio that stands out against the breathtaking backdrop of the Alps, we enter the heart of the first stage of our Discover our cities series: Novara.
Nuara (in Novara dialect), the second most populous city in Piedmont, is located in the eastern part of our beloved region, more precisely in the plain between the rivers Ticino and Sesia. It is very close to the border with Lombardy and is surrounded by rice fields, the Piedmontese (squared) sea.
The founding of Novara dates back to 89 BC, the name of the city may indicate a new settlement (Nov) in the area with the Celtic name Aria. Its plan with perpendicular streets dates back to Roman times and has remained intact: the alignments of the courses Italia and Cavallotti and the courses Cavour and Mazzini are respectively the decumanus and the cardo of the Roman Novaria.
Walking along these elegant courses today you can discover sumptuous palaces such as Palazzo Tornielli Bellini and Palazzo Natta, historical buildings from different periods, and you can get lost looking at the shop windows of the historic center characterized by a dignified physiognomy. In the middle of the city stands, with its 121 meters high, the neoclassical pinnacle dome of the Basilica of San Gaudenzio, designed by the Piedmontese architect Alessandro Antonelli. It has become the symbol of Novara and is also called “little sister” of the Turin Mole Antonelliana designed by the same architect.
The basilica, one of the most famous monuments, was built between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and is dedicated to the patron saint of the city; to the left of the apse stands the bell tower that was designed by Benedetto Alfieri, uncle of Vittorio Alfieri. This religious complex certainly deserves a visit because of its uniqueness and beauty, possibly climbing on the dome also to admire the magnificent landscape of Novara.
Moving further south we will find another stop on our tour: the Duomo overlooking the medieval Broletto complex. The Duomo of Novara (Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta) is located in Piazza della Repubblica and was built on the ruins of a previous Romanesque cathedral. In front of the church is located the early Christian Baptistery (dating back to the 4th-5th century), considered the oldest monument of the city. A few steps from the Duomo, through an arched passage from Piazza della Repubblica, we access one of the most suggestive and unmissable areas, the Arengo (courtyard) of the Broletto.
It is a medieval architectural complex consisting of four historical buildings of different periods and artistic styles, arranged in a quadrilateral around a central courtyard. Historically, it has always been the center of civil life in the city, markets and public sentences were held, but today it houses a modern art gallery.
We can end this tour through the streets of the city in Piazza Martiri della Libertà, surrounded by the nineteenth-century neoclassical buildings of the Palazzo del Mercato and Teatro Coccia, and the remains of the Castello Sforzesco, of medieval origin.
The wonders of Novara, however, do not end here. If at landscape and architectural level Novara does not disappoint the view, thanks to its gastronomic products do not disappoint even the palate. On the other hand, how could with a delicacy like gorgonzola? Sweet, spicy, Gorgonzola DOP is undoubtedly one of the pride of the Novara area, besides the fact that the town is the seat of the “Consortium for the protection of Gorgonzola cheese”. As the Antonelliana dome is one of the symbols of Novara, the other cannot but be the rice, the most traditional among the crops of the province.
It is used for all kinds of recipes but the most classic one is paniscia, or risotto with lard, onion, cabbage, beans, and the inevitable salam d’la duja. The most typical dessert, known and appreciated everywhere, is the Biscottini di Novara. They are cookies prepared in the ancient Camporelli cookie factory since 1852. The Biscottini can be tasted in the historical Camporelli shop in the center of Novara. Must be tasted also the Bread of San Gaudenzio, another typical dessert.
Perhaps not everyone knows that Novara is also the home of the Campari aperitif. In 1860 Gaspare Campari bought a place in the city, the “Caffè dell’amicizia”, and began to create and perfect the Campari recipe, giving life to his company starting from the small bar in Novara.
It is impossible to talk about Novara and not to talk about wine. Yes, because wine production in the Novara hills has origins that date back to pre-Roman times. Boca, Ghemme, Fara and Sizzano have obtained the Controlled Designation of Origin, and for more than twenty years the DOC Colline Novaresi has also been recognized with more types: Colline Novaresi, Colline Novaresi Bianco, Colline Novaresi Nebbiolo or Spanna (also known as Gattinara), Colline Novaresi Uva Rara or Bonarda, Colline Novaresi Vespolina, Colline Novaresi Croatina, Colline Novaresi Barbera.
Like every Piedmontese and Italian city, Novara is also rich in traditions that result in exciting festivals and events. Passing near Novara in March you might think you have gone back in time to the nineteenth century. Every March 23, in fact, is recalled the Battle of Bicocca, fought in 1849, with costumes and weapons of the time. Music lovers, instead, cannot miss the Novara Jazz (May-June) and the Novara Gospel Festival (September-October).
So in Novara, among its beauty and its goodness, there is something for everyone, as in the whole Piedmont.
– Until next time, With love!