From Torino to Vercelli, along the Via Francigena
Going right back to ancient times, Piemonte has always been the passage between the Alps and the Pianura Padana: this explains the important role that Augusta Taurinorum still has, even after the Roman era, as the focal point of the routes headed towards the most important Alpine passes and to the Holy Land and Roma, using the Roman roads such as the Fulvia towards Asti or the “consolare” towards Vercelli.
In the year 1000, the principal routes for the pilgrims on Via Francigena were from Valle d’Aosta through Canavese and from Val Susa, which would then join together between Santhià and Vercelli: religious foundations such as Santa Maria di Lucedio, in the Vercelli plain, were exempted from the toll for climbing up to the Val Susa crossings.
Already mentioned in AD 333 by the anonymous author of Itinerarium burdigalense, the core of Torino forming part of the Via Francigena is within what is known as the Quadrilatero Romano, where Augusta Taurinorum originated with its characteristic and regular urban format that is still now easily visible: near to the Porta Secusina there were a dozen or so hospitalia and xenodochia for welcoming pilgrims.
The travellers would continue along the River Po reaching Chivasso: these were the lands of the Marquisate of Monferrato who, for some centuries, competed with the Savoy family for control over the itinerary. From here there opened lands of water and marshland, which have now become paddy fields leading to the plain of Vercelli.
Taking this stretch of the Via Francigena these days means crossing a territory full of architectural gems and beautiful landscapes, characterised by the geometric regularity of the crop and rice fields, lands that bear witness to the art and hard work of the populations.