History and culture
Human presence on this territory is very old and has left traces since prehistoric times, that are now collected in the Archaeological Museum in Cuorgnè. First inhabited by the Celts, then colonized by the Romans and later by the Lombards, who had an important settlement in Belmonte, the territory is deeply tied to the Middle Ages and the historical figure of the Marquis Arduin of Ivrea, who was hostile to the count bishops and was excommunicated, crowned King of Italy in 1002, emerged victorious from the siege of the imperial army at the Rocca di Sparone and finally retired to end his days in good odour at the Abbey of Fruttuaria.
Many traces of the medieval period can be seen on the territory, from the castles, nowadays partly remodelled in the form of villas (like in Rivara, Castellamonte, Valperga and Pecco), to the towers (at Pont Canavese, the Ferranda, today the Museum of the territory, and the Tellaria face each other; in Cuorgnè the round tower and the square one; but we must also remember the Torre Cives of Vidracco, and the one in Colleretto Castelnuovo, remains of the ancient Castle).
One of the jewels of the area is also the Ducal Castle of Agliè (approximately 60,000 entries per year), belonging to the circuit of Royal Residences of Piemonte and belongs to the Unesco World Heritage List.
The many strongholds built in the Alpine area are typical of this territory. They can often be reached with short walks (Onsino at Sparone, Cà del Cont in Frassinetto, Pianit at Locana, Servino in Ronco, Pertia in Ribordone), in Carema the fortress obviously hosts a cellar…
Numerous historical centres of the area display medieval traces, like for example Cuorgnè, Levone, Sparone, Pont Canavese and the hamlet of Chiapinetto in Frassinetto. Passion for the Middle Ages is also reflected in the numerous pageants, from the May Tournament at the court of King Arduino in Cuorgnè to the commemoration of the siege of Rocca di Sparone, without forgetting the re-enactment dedicated to Adelaide of Susa in Canischio and the Historic Carnival of Castellamonte that recalls some moments of the “tuchinaggio”, a fourteenth-century popular revolt.
Another important historical period for tourism in the area was the period of the nineteenth century “royal hunts” and the presence of the Savoy and the nobility of Turin in the area and in particular in Ceresole, which therefore assumed the title of Royal. Testimonies of the old glory days remain in the villas around the lake, in the ancient spa at the Mineral Springs and in the Grand Hotel where Carducci composed the Ode to Piedmont and which now hosts tourists again and the headquarters of our Consortium.
Among the historic cultural heritage of an artistic religious character that deserves a visit, we must undoubtedly first of all recommend the Baptistery and the Pieve di San Lorenzo in Settimo Vittone, with a magnificent cycle of frescoes, the unfinished Rotonda Antonelliana in Castellamonte, the small and very old Santa Maria di Doblazio in Pont Canavese and the aforementioned Rocca di Sparone with the church of Santa Croce.
Many churches display minor frescoes, often dating back to the fifteenth century like the Madonna del Carmine in Prascorsano, the chapel of St. James in Borgiallo, the chapel of San Grato in Canischio, the chapel of Filassola in San Colombano Belmonte.
The parish church of Frassinetto preserves works of the much-appreciated nineteenth-century painter Carlo Bonatto Minella, to whom is also dedicated a small art gallery.
There are many Sanctuaries that witnessed miraculous events, among which we will only mention: the Sanctuary of Prascondù in Ribordone, where there is also a Museum of popular religiosity, the Sanctuary of San Fermin in Pertusio, the Sanctuary of St. Elizabeth in Colleretto Castelnuovo. The Sanctuary of Belmonte with its Sacro Monte (Sacred Mount), UNESCO World Heritage Site, is worth a visit as it combines elements of artistic and historical interest (the itinerary with the chapels of the Via Crucis scattered on the hill, the picture gallery with votive offerings, the small museum of the sanctuary) with an amazing landscape and view. Other popular sanctuaries are those of Piova, of Belice or of the Milani in Forno, of St. Anne of Meinardi in Locana. A devotional excursion that is widely practised is to the Sanctuary of San Besso , in the Soana Valley, which is at about two thousand meters above sea level and takes place every year on August 10th and December 1st, and gathers the faithful on a pilgrimage from the Canavese area and Val d’Aosta.
The Dora Baltea area is crossed by the Via Francigena that has been, since the High Middle Ages, the route taken by pilgrims from all over central-northern Europe to Rome. In 990 the Via was travelled, recorded and described over 79 days by the Archbishop Sigerico returning to Canterbury from Rome, after his investiture of the archbishop’s pallium from Pope John XV. His diary is therefore the most authentic testimony of the itinerary, which in 2004 was declared by the Council of Europe “Major European Cultural Route” like the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The Osteria (Tavern) la Sosta in Settimo Vittone, a member of the Consortium, is located in an ancient “hospitale” of the Via Francigena, a point of rest and refreshment for the pilgrims, as demonstrated by the plaque of foundation dating from 894 AD .
In the territory of the Canavese Valleys a particularly important element is also The Knowledge of Making ie all the elements of material culture and traditional crafts that are unique to this area.
We will start from the tradition of crafting clay and ceramics of Castellamonte, a city that is home to many shops of ceramic artists, the Ceramics Museum in Palazzo Botton, the house museum of the Allaira Family and the Pagliero Furnace in Spineto. And right in the building of the Furnace that can be visited and houses permanent exhibits, there is a restaurant, “Peccati con gusto”, one of our partners. In Castellamonte is held annually between August and September the Ceramics Exhibition, while in Castelnuovo Nigra the main street hosts a permanent exhibition of ceramic nativities.
Another peculiarity of the territory has been, since ancient times, mining and metalworking. In Valchiusella, in Traversella you can visit the ancient mines in Broseley the ecomuseum of Brossasca and the Mineral Museum Ca ‘d Martolo, while in the Valleys of Orco and Soana we find copper processing, with the ecomuseum of Alpena and the Forge of Ronco.
The traditional nomadic trades, the rural and agricultural, woodland and farming life that characterized these territories have led to a widespread presence in the area of ecomuseums, such as the museum network AMI (Morainic Amphitheatre of Ivrea), small ethnographic museums , workshops and mills that have been recovered and transformed into places to visit. Among these we will only mention the Chestnut Ecomuseum in Nomaglio, the Rural Culture Ecomuseum in Andrate, the “Bottega del Frer” in Chiaverano, the Museum of Alpine Life in Issiglio, the Museum of the territory in the Ferranda Tower and the Museum of Canteir in Pont Canavese, the Spaciafornel Museum in Locana, the Misun ed Barba Censo in Ceresole.