Novara, Biella and the heretic friar Frà Dolcino

The Novara and Biella area of the heretic friar Frà Dolcino


From Vercelli, Dante's itinerary winds through the Novara area of DOC labels, from Ghemme (City of wine and honey) to Sizzano and Fara, passing through Recetto (with its 13th century castle and city walls) and the fortified abbey of Saints Nazario and Celso in San Nazzaro Sesia (11th century), an important stop on the pilgrims' path to Rome. From this "piece of Mekong delta transplanted in Europe" - as the writer Sebastiano Vassalli defined it - one can see Novara, homeland of the "heretic" Frà Dolcino in the background, of whom in Hell (XXVIII) Mohammed prophesies the sad capitulation in to Dante. In the "heart of stone" of the city, the Paleochristian Baptistery and the 121-metre vertiginous dome of the late Renaissance Basilica di San Gaudenzio, a daring masonry work by Alessandro Antonelli, whose neoclassical imprint can also be seen in the Cathedral and in Casa Bossi, are of great value. A beautiful network of footpaths and cycle paths crosses the Novara plain, running for long stretches along the Cavour Canal. Built in just 3 years at the behest of Camillo Benso Count of Cavour, it is the second navigable canal in Italy, connecting Chivasso to the magnificent area of the Ticino Nature Park and Bosco Vedro, between castles (such as the Visconti-Sforza castle in Galliate, which can be visited) and sanctuaries such as San Pietro in Vulpiate, called "il Varallino" for its similarity to the UNESCO Sacred Mountain of Varallo.



The flight of Frà Dolcino and his Apostles ended in the Biellese mountains, where they were captured by the papal forces in Valsessera. From this natural gateway we enter the wonderful natural environment of  Oasi Zegna, 100 kilometres of protected natural area for an ideal open-air gym that lends itself well to all kinds of outdoor activities and pastimes for adults and children alike: simple walks, Nordic walking, "forest bathing" and trekking, mountain bike and e-bike trails, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing and sledding in the winter months. This is where the Sentiero di Frà Dolcino crosses the panoramic Cammino di San Bernardo. Not far away at the foot of the Biellese Alps is the medieval heart of Biella, today a UNESCO Creative City for Crafts and Folk Art and a crucial junction on the ancient routes of pilgrims and wayfarers branching out across the region. Beautiful itineraries to cover on foot or by bicycle (and sometimes on horseback) are offered to walking enthusiasts at a slow pace, as well as trekking, hiking and biking enthusiasts in peaceful and beautiful wilderness. An example? The 12 stages of the Cammino di San Carlo Borromeo (The Path of Saint-Charles Borromeo), for a total of 200 km from the Sacred Mount of Oropa to Arona, through Biella, Verbano, Vercelli and Novara. A fascinating route, which intersects stretches of the Via Francigena and the The Sacri Monti Trail - UNESCO World Heritage in Piedmont.