History and Culture
There is a long history of human presence in this area which has left traces since prehistoric times and has been collected in the Archaeological Museum of Cuorgnè. Initially populated by Celtic peoples and then colonized by the Romans and subsequently by the Longobards, who built a major settlement in Belmonte, the area is deeply connected to the middle ages and to the historical figure of the Marquis Arduino of Ivrea whose opposition against the bishop vassals got him excommunicated and later crowned King of Italy in 1002 and who survived and prevailed after the siege by the Imperial Army at the Rocca di Sparone and who eventually retired to end his days in a saintly fashion at the Abbey of Fruttuaria.
Numerous traces of the medieval period can be seen in the area such as the castles-cum-villas of Rivara, Castellamonte, Valperga and Pecco and the Ferranda tower at Pont Canavese which hosts the Museum of the Territory and faces the Tellaria tower; the round tower in Cuorgnè which stands facing a square one; as well as the Cives Tower in Vidracco and the Colleretto Castelnuovo Tower, the remains of an ancient Castle. The Castello Ducale di Agliè is one of the main local attractions (60,000 visits per year); it belongs to the circuit of the Royal Residences of the Piedmont and it is included in the UNESCO world heritage sites list.
The area is characterized by many fortified houses in the Alpine zone which can often be reached by short walks (Onsino di Sparone, Cà del Cont in Frassinetto, Pianit di Locana, Servino in Ronco, Pertia in Ribordone), in Carema the fortified house obviously houses a wine cellar…
Many historical centers have medieval features, like for example Cuorgnè, Sparone, Pont Canavese, Levone, and the hamlet of Chiapinetto di Frassinetto. The passion for the middle ages comes to life in numerous historical reenactments, from the May Tournament at the Court of King Arduin in Cuorgnè to the re-enactment of the siege of the Rocca di Sparone, and including the commemoration of Adelaide of Susa in Canischio and the historic Carnival of Castellamonte which evokes some moments of the tuchinaggio, the 14th century popular uprising.
Another important historical period for the local tourist industry is the 19th-century period of the “royal hunts” and of the presence of the Savoy family and of the Turin nobility in the area and in particular in Ceresole. The glorious old times are witnessed by the villas around the lake, the old Spa at the mineral springs and the Grand hotel where the poet Carducci composed the Ode al Piemonte and which today is once again hosting tourists as well as the headquarters of our Consortium.
Among the historical and cultural assets with an artistic and religious character that can be visited we should mention the baptistery and the parish of San Lorenzo in Settimo Vittone, with its magnificent frescoes; the unfinished Rotonda Antonelliana in Castellamonte; the small and ancient Santa Maria di Doblazio in Pont Canavese and the aforementioned Rocca di Sparone with the Church of Santa Croce. Many churches house lesser-known fifteenth-century frescoes, like the Madonna del Carmine in Prascorsano, the chapel of San Giacomo in Borgiallo, the chapel of San Grato in Canischio, the chapel of Filassola in San Colombano Belmonte. The parish church of Frassinetto preserves works by the well-known 19th century painter Carlo Bonatto Minella; there is also a small art museum dedicated to him.
There are numerous shrines that witnessed miraculous events, among which we wish to mention the Prascondù Sanctuary in Ribordone, where there is also a museum of popular religiosity, the Sanctuary of San Firmino in Pertusio and the Sanctuary of Santa Elisabetta in Colleretto Castelnuovo. The Sanctuary of Belmonte and its Sacro Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is definitely worth a visit as it combines elements of artistic and historical interest (the Stations of the Cross scattered on the hill, the gallery with the votive offerings, the little museum of the sanctuary) with an extraordinary landscape and view. Other popular sanctuaries are those of Piova, of Belice or Milani in Forno and of Sant’Anna dei Meinardi in Locana. The very popular devotional excursion to the Sanctuary of San Besso in the Soana valley at two thousand meters takes place every year on the 10th of August and on the 1st of December and it attracts the faithful from the Canavese and from the Valle d’Aosta region.
The Via Francigena, the route taken since the High Middle Ages by pilgrims from central and northern Europe to Rome, can be found near the Dora Baltea river. In 990 AD this route was traveled, recorded and described over a period of seventy-nine days by the Archbishop Sigeric who was returning to Canterbury from Rome after being awarded the Pallium by Pope John XV. His diary is the most authentic record of the route which in 2004 was declared a “Great European Cultural Itinerary” by the Council of Europe like the Camino de Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
The Osteria La Sosta in Settimo Vittone, a member of the Consortium, is located in an old hospitale of the Via Francigena, a place for the pilgrim to rest and refresh, as witnessed by the memorial foundation stone dating back to 894 AD. The Canavese Valleys are also characterized by the Knowledge of Crafts: all the elements of the material culture and of the traditional handicrafts that are unique to this area.
We start from the clay processing tradition of Castellamonte, a town that hosts numerous shops of ceramic artists, the Museum of Ceramics at Palazzo Botton, the house-museum of the Allaira Family and the Pagliero kiln in Spineto. The building housing the kiln can be visited and houses permanent exhibitions and our member restaurant Peccati con Gusto. Castellamonte hosts the annual Ceramics Exhibition between August and September, while Castelnuovo Nigra hosts a permanent display of ceramic nativity scenes along its main street.
Mining and the processing of metals have also characterized the area since ancient times. In Valchiusella the old mines of Traversella can be visited, Brosso hosts the eco-museum of Brossasca and the mineralogical museum Ca’d Martolo, while in the Orco and Soana Valleys we can find copper processing, with the Alpette eco-museum and the Ronco Forge.
A tradition of nomadic crafts and the rural and agrosilvopastoral lifestyle that have characterized these areas led to a widespread presence of eco-museums, like the AMI museum network (Moraine Amphitheater of Ivrea), small ethnographic museums, restored factories and mills that have been transformed into attractions. Among these we wish to mention a few like the eco-museum of the Nomaglio chestnut, the eco-museum of rural culture of Andrate, the Bottega del Frer of Chiaverano, the Alpine life Museum of Issiglio, the Museum of the Territory in the Ferranda Tower and the Canteir museum in Pont Canavese, the Spaciafornel Museum in Locana, the Misun ed Barba Censo in Ceresole.