Route 2 - Torino - Vercelli (Km 84,8)

Route 2 - Torino - Vercelli (Km 84,8)
  • Torino - San Mauro Torinese (Km 9,8)

    After crossing the River Po at Gran Madre di Dio, the trail runs along the right bank of the river, through Michelotti Park and the Meisino Natural Reserve, continuing until San Mauro Torinese, already known by the ancient Romans as Pulchra Rada for its favourable location on a navigable stretch of the Po. In 991, Anselmo di Monferrato promoted the reconstruction of the Benedictine abbey of San Mauro di Pulcherada, previously destroyed by the Saracens: built over an existing Roman settlement, a town grew up around it. The abbey church, now dedicated to Santa Maria di Pulcherada and modified over the years, has retained its 12th century proto-gothic bell tower and an interesting Carolingian apse with 10th century pilasters and niches. In 1400, the town was renamed San Mauro, as a tribute to the Benedictine monk who stopped here on his return to France in the 16th century. Along the way there are some interesting country chapels to be seen, such as the 16th century Sant’Anna and the 18th century San Rocco. The path also passes at the foot of Sambuy Castle, first documented in 991 and linked to St Mauro’s stay. Lastly, this is where the evocative Pedaggio Vecchio was situated, the borderland between the Marquisate of Monferrato and the Duchy of Savoy.

    San Mauro Torinese - Castiglione Torinese (Km 6,1)

    From San Mauro the route continues along the hydro-electric canal of Cimena, approaching the hill and village of Castiglione Torinese up to the junction with the road for Chieri, near the Church of San Claudio e San Dalmazzo (1951). The name of the town derives from the presence of an 11th century fortalice, destroyed in the 17th century by Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy and rebuilt soon after by the brothers Turinetti, to whom the Madame Royal Christine of France had granted a fief. Here there is the Church of San Rocco (1720), a small baroque gem designed by the architect Falletti di Barolo, in which there are many frescoes by unknown painters and, in the dome, there is depicted Our Lady of the Assumption accompanied by a flight of angels. Also interesting is the ancient Church of San Martino named after the bishop of Tours: in the semicircular apse of this church have been found many tombs, including one attributed to a male person adorned in the Lombard funerary style.

    Castiglione Torinese - Gassino Torinese (Km 1,3)

    The route up to Gassino Torinese is entirely in urban areas. Some archaeological finds have placed the first settlement back to the times of the flourishing development of the Roman city of Industria: this and Augusta Taurinorum were, in fact, connected by a road along which may have been built a castrum. Forming part of the territory of the Marquisate of Monferrato, since 1003 Gassino was surrounded by walls and a typical medieval layout that can still be seen in the colonnaded structure in the historic town centre dominated by the circular formed Church of the Confraternita dello Spirito Santo: built in the 18th century, it has a beautiful baroque facade topped by a very tall dome, known as the Cucurin, which is reminiscent of its contemporary at Superga. The oldest parish church dates back to the 11th century: now called the Church of SS. Pietro e Paolo, it was partly rebuilt and restored in the 18th century in the style of Guarini; inside there is the wonderful painting of Our Lady and Saints by Claudio Francesco Beaumont and, in the side chapel, the 17th century painting, the Visitation.

    Gassino Torinese - San Raffaele Cimena (Km 2,9)

    The meandering route continues along the canal, in the direction of Piana di San Raffaele, reaches the right bank of the Po and follows its course until passing the promontory hill of Cimena.
    The instituting of San Raffaele Cimena, currently a union of two places, is related to the Roman road that connected Chivasso-Clavasium to Torino-Augusta Taurinorum: around a votive chapel dedicated to St Raphael, built according to the tradition of the Justinian troops, in the 6th century the first settlement was created as a Byzantine garrison on the plains below. In the early medieval period, much of the town moved up the hills because of raids by bandits and, perhaps, Saracens, when also the walls and moats were constructed. The village, developed around a fortress, was named San Raffaele, but along the road for Chivasso there remained some inhabited garrisons that provided services to pilgrims and merchants. However, Cimena may originate from an earlier period than the Romans, and in 1596 it figured as an independent town of considerable importance because of being on a busy communication route and in a very favourable agricultural area. The Church of the Sacro Cuore di Gesù was built in the 1930s in neo-Gothic style to designs by the architect Bartolomeo Gallo and was extended in the late 1960s.
    Once past the town going in the direction of Chivasso and having crossed the Vaj Wood, protected by the Natural Park of the Torino Hill, the Church of San Genesio is reached, rebuilt in Romanesque style from the chapel under the same name dating back to 1156: the current layout is from a refurbishment in the early 1900s, but of the original building there remains the central apse, the one on the left and the splendid brick bell tower with single-lancet windows, mullioned windows and mullioned windows with three lights decorated with blind arcades.

    San Raffaele Cimena - Chivasso (Km 8,9)

    From the junction for Castagneto Po the journey leads to a roundabout where the direction to take is the straight road that crosses the bridge over the Po and leads to the centre of Chivasso, the ancient Clavasium. This was always an important market and strategic place of trade due to its position on the main Monferrato road: the entrance to the town is dominated by the 15th century Duomo of Santa Maria Assunta, one of the most important examples of gothic art in Piemonte, with a facade richly decorated with terracotta friezes and sculptures, and inside of which is an altarpiece by Defendente Ferrari. Of the castle of the Aleramici of the Marquisate of Monferrato there only remains the Octagonal Tower, between Piazza della Repubblica and Via Po. On the facade of the current Palace of Economy and del Labour “Luigi Einaudi” (probably created in the 17th century as a resting place for passing soldiers) there has been put a Clock of new time to commemorate the French Revolution: the day is divided into 10 hours, each hour in 100 minutes, each minute in 100 seconds, and the hands make just one revolution per day. In Piazza d’Armi stands the Lapis Longus, a 4m tall stone funerary monument of the 7th to 6th century BC: in 1649 it was turned into a pillory for punishing debtors.

    Chivasso - Castelrosso (Km 4)

    Chivasso is also where the Cavour Canal begins: built between 1863 and 1866, it is one of the greatest examples of waterways engineering of the period. By an extensive network of canals, it enabled the transformation and development of territories in Canavese and Vercelli: the monumental entrance building in stone and brick is 40m long and has 21 spans consisting of 3 orders of floodgates.

    The trail alongside the canal leads to the village of Castelrosso, whose Church of SS. Giovanni Battista e Rocco was built in 1758 to a design by the architect Paolo Lorenzo Garrone: inside is a baroque altar in black marble and some beautiful 19th century frescos.

    Castelrosso - Torrazza Piemonte (Km 3,7)

    After this, Torrazza Piemonte is reached, to the right of the Dora Baltea. In the centre stands the Church of San Giacomo, built in 1746 and restored and enlarged in 1843, while the Town Hall stands out for its great three-arched portico and the massive square tower.

    Torrazza Piemonte - Saluggia (Km 5,8)

    Crossing the bridge over the Dora Baltea, a dirt road leads to Saluggia. Originally a Roman settlement and then, in the Middle Ages, profiting from the fishing rights and ferry payments, it is now best known for an excellent product: the “Saluggia bean”, highly prized for the typical “panissa”, a traditional dish well worth sampling. During the Renaissance, the aristocratic family Mazzetti held sway, traces of whose 16th century castle are still to be found in the present day Town Hall. The Church of San Grato, built in the 16th century and altered several times thereafter, holds the statue of the Dead Christ, perhaps coming from the ancient parish church of the Old Cemetery which was destroyed by flooding in the 15th century.

    Saluggia - Lamporo (Km 6,9)

    On leaving Saluggia the route leads to Lamporo whose name derives from the Amporium irrigation ditch that, even now – a unique sight that has remained unchanged by the wishes of the residents – spans the length of the whole town and at whose ends is crossed by two little churches: local legend has it that one of these, the Madonna di Loreto (17th century), on moonless nights, is the home to the witch Giunghiglia who, sitting on the roof smoking an enormous pipe, scares off passers-by. The Church of San Bernardo da Mentone, built in 1566 and altered several times, contains an 18th century reliquary of the saint, made in Torino. In the 14th century Lamporo was a fiefdom of the Ghibelline family Tizzoni and, towards the end of the 17th century, of the noble Pastoris family.

    Lamporo - Colombara (Km 6,2)

    Continuing towards Vercelli, Colombara can be found, a fine example of the ancient structure of the “closed court”: some of the rooms preserved show how people lived and worked between 1800 and 1900, and house the Museum La Risaia dedicated to the rice pickers and their hard work. The 16th century church is dedicated to San Giovanni Battista: it is now no longer the parish church but it retains its structure, although now without the colonnade that encircled the right side.

    Colombara - Leri (Km 2,8)

    The next step is Leri in the Vercelli countryside, one of the grange connected with the Abbey of Lucedio: the grange were farming organisations that were begun in the 12th century by the Cistercian Benedictine monks working with lay brothers and farmers. In 1807, with the annexation of Piemonte to France, Napoleon left all the estates to Prince Camillo Borghese who, in turn, transferred them to a company. When this company was dissolved, a part of the grangia was bought by Camillo Benso di Cavour, who transformed it into a model company using advanced agricultural techniques. Not to be overlooked is the Church of the Natività di Maria Santissima, on which work was also done by the architect Francesco Gallo, the same who built the imposing and daring dome of the Shrine of Vicoforte at Mondovì.

    Leri - Castelmerlino (Km 0,5)

    This leads to Castelmerlino, another grangia that, although rather more modest, has a small church in open brickwork dedicated to San Pietro: it has an unusual octagonal shape and was built by the architect Carlo Antonio Castelli in just one year, between 1724 and 1725. This plan is comparable to that of the nearby Shrine of the Madonna delle Vigne, now somewhat run down.

    Castelmerlino - Darola (Km 3,2)

    Lastly, Darola is the grangia with the largest area given over to paddy fields and is arranged in a sprawling closed court style. The entrance tower is well conserved with its carriage entrance and the postern that, originally, had a drawbridge and a footbridge, always down for pedestrians. The 18th century Church of San Giacomo, also made by Castelli, holds an ancient icon of the Virgin Mary and a very lovely Nativity Scene by the Dominican Luigi Francesco Savoia, a painter of the second half of the last century who left many of his works to the Church of San Domenico in Torino.

    A brief deviation from the main itinerary leads to the Abbey of Lucedio: in 1123, on uncultivated land, some Cistercian monks settled here from the French abbey of La Ferté and it is assumed that the name is derived from lucus dei i.e. “sacred forest”. The monks made the land fertile and productive by clearing and tilling it and exploiting the abundant water for growing rice. From this abbey grangia came a further eight: Darola, Castelmerlino, Leri, Montarucco, Montarolo, Ramezzana, Pobietto and Montonero. The abbey complex of the 12th century can still be glimpsed in various buildings, but the most significant ones are the Chapter House and the Bell Tower with a quadrangular base from which emerge four octagonal sections edged by string courses with blind arcades. The original Abbey, dedicated to Santa Maria di Lucedio, was rebuilt in 1766 and, since 1787, was called Santissima Vergine Assunta. What is known as the Church del Popolo (1741), available to laymen and farmers, is still awaiting restoration.

    Darola - Ronsecco (Km 4,3)

    At this point, the trail leads to Ronsecco whose original settlement was built near the Shrine of Viri Veri but was abandoned in the 12th century and rebuilt on its present site in around 1660 under the episcopate of the bishop of Vercelli Uguccione. The town, whose name refers to Roncho sicho or Ronchum sicum which means an arid wasteland, is now in the midst of a paddy field landscape of irrigation ditches, springs and farms. The Church of San Lorenzo, built in the 15th century, underwent a major restoration in 1857. The name of the already mentioned Shrine of Viri Veri, built in the late 16th century, presumably comes from villa vetus: the place is linked to the liberating of the country from the cholera epidemic of 1867 and an object of great veneration is the statue of the Assumption. The castle for the Vercelli Guelphs of the Bondonni family can be dated to the late 14th century and is currently being restored.

    Ronsecco - Lignana (Km 7,4)

    We now come to Lignana which was first recorded in 1034, while an ecclesia is mentioned starting from 1156, at the time under the name San Germano. In the 14th century, the town was enfeoffed to the Corradi family who stayed the undisputed masters until the middle of the 17th century. Testifying to their prestige is the Castle, now serving as a farm: the part best preserved, in late medieval form, is the front characterised by a massive tower-gate, wide machicolations and embrasure that were used for manoeuvring two drawbridges for the carriage way and the postern. The Church of San Germano, renovated several times but still showing Romanesque string courses, contains inside – among rounds in the ceiling depicting saints – the portrait of the Blessed Ardizio dei Corradi di Lignana, one of the first followers of San Francesco d’Assisi.

    Lignana - Casalrosso (Km 3,2)

    Casalrosso is an hamlet of Lignana. Already by 1348, documents record the nearby Ecclesia de casali Rubeo – now the Church of Santissimo Salvatore – which underwent several renovations up to 1815, from which time it has remained unchanged: it still has an interesting 17th century pulpit.

    Casalrosso - Larizzate (Km 2)

    Here we are finally at Larizzate, at one time a grangia and an outpost for the defence of the walls around Vercelli: still now are clearly visible the cylindrical towers and parts of a castle; the church is dedicated to Santissima Vergine Assunta. From here comes a document, dated 17 August 1493 which, for the first time, reported on the rice cultivation in the Vercelli territory.

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