Biella - Il Santuario Di Oropa
The Province of Biella stretches across northern Piedmont and borders the Valle d’Aosta Valley to the west.
In this unspoiled land, nature has many faces, such as the picturesque Biellese pre-Alpine mountains dotted with pretty valleys, and in the south, the pleasant banks of Lake Viverone, a very popular spot with tourists. The reserves enclose wonderful landscapes: the wide moor of the Riserva Naturale Orientata delle Baragge, the Alpine environment called the Zegna Oasis with its characteristic Via dei Rododendri, and the Parco Naturale della Burcina, covered in flowers and colors just in time for in pring. Perfectly pairing with the wonders of natureare religious, cultural and artistic treasures galore.
This is a land of marked spirituality, as the many religious sites would attest; the Marian Sanctuary of Oropa, one of the most important shrines in Europe, certainly stands out.
In the south, the remains of ancient churches and villages from Middle Ages can still be seen along the Via Francigena, a route for pilgrims that historically connected Rome to the northern world.
This territory encompasses picturesque villages and charming settlements, walled complexes that have remained almost constants in time. Among these is the Settlement of Candelo, unique in Europe.
The charm of Biella Province is tied to its local culture, including the production of articles from high quality wool and crafts, and an amazing culinary tradition and great wines.
An exploration of the Province of Biella begins, where else, in Biella, surrounded by breathtakingly-beautiful mountains and divided into two districts: Biella-Piano and Biella-Piazzo, connected to each other by steep streets called coste and by a funicular.
Biella-Piazzo is the Medieval district, dominated by the magnificent Palazzo Cisterna and ancient churches; in Biella-Piano lie the Duomo, the pre-Romanesque Baptistery and the Museum of the Biellese Territory, documenting local history in great detail.
A land tied to its faith, Biella is also the location of the Sacro Monte di Oropa, a monument whose Sanctuary is listed as s UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Biennial Religious and Cultural Tourism Market is held here as well.
The Sanctuary of Graglia and the Sanctuary of Giovanni d’Andorno are worth visiting, both lying in panoramic positions within pristine nature.
Another site that unites the splendor of nature with culture is the Special Natural Reserve of Bessa, an ancient Roman goldmine, where the rubble from the original extractions can still be seen.
Among the settlements (ricetti) in the province, the most important are Magnano and, above all, Candelo, a scenic village enclosed by fortified walls and angular towers. Candelo bestows its charm on the surrounding area, and thus resembles its fellow villages and castles on the tour known as Andar per borghi nel Biellese (trans. "Visiting the Borgoes of Biella"). The Museum Network of Biella is well-curated and all the group's museums, in some way, bear witness to the local culture and traditions of the provincial valleys.
Rosazza, in Valle Cervo, is known as the village of stone-cutters, and offers a unique example of local culture and architecture, i.e. traditional stone dwellings.
The section of the Via Francigena lying within the Biella area and passing by the villages of Cavaglià, Viverone and Roppolo, is a landmark of historical and religious merit, and is rich in Medieval artworks.
The Via della Lana or Wool Route is a prime testament to local culture. Starting in Biella, it runs along the Sesia River and past ancient spinning factories - such as the 18th-Century wheel factory of Pray (now a museum) - and the Casa Zegna in Trivero.
The Alpine Mountains of Biella encompass wild and unspoiled environments, and form the ideal backdrop for active holidays in all seasons: from walking and trekking to "iron roads" for Alpine mountaineering, snowshoe itineraries, not to mention some specialist activities at the Parco Avventura and Bungee Jumping in Veglio, known as the “Colossus” and, at a height of 499 feet, recognized as the highest permanent bungee jump station in Europe.
In winter, the well-equipped resorts of Oropa and Bielmonte offer both modern facilities and many ski and snowboard pistes, and the chance to try unprepared pistes, so ideal for Free Rides.
Between Bocchetto Sassera and Oropa, there are many opportunities for cross-country skiing at different levels and in various evocative and unique landscapes.
In the heart of the Biella Alps, the Oasi Zegna and other areas are perfect for walking, trekking or mountain biking and horseback riding in summer.
Lake Viverone is the ideal destination for water sports: water skiing, canoeing, pedal boating, rowing, motor boats and sport fishing.
Numerous events and folkloristic festivals are staged here, such as the famous Carnival of Biella with Processione del Babi in Biella on Ash Wednesdays.
Be sure to attend some of the area's festive events, including Candeloinfiore and Vinincontro in Candelo; Magic in the Borgo in Masserano; and, at Christmastime, the Mercatino degli Angeli in Sordevolo, one of the most typical markets of the area. The Presepe Gigante, a huge nativity scene in Marchetto di Mosso, is decorated with life-size statues dotted around the village. Finally, the Passion of Sordevolo is a very important religious event and commemorates the Passion of Christ every five years from June to September, in which all the local people take part.
The province also offers many chances to shop for high-quality fabrics, an ancient tradition of Biella.
This mountainous area is rich in meadows where the main produce is cheese, such as the toma from Elvo Valley, fresh or seasoned, the sancarlin and tumin eletric, both fresh processed cheeses.
Other specialties are polenta cunscia, fondua and ris an cagnum, made with local cheese; frità rugnosa, an omelette with salami; and, of course, bagna caoda.
Tasty but lesser-known dishes are the supa mituna, made with bread, broth, herbs or vegetables; and the mactabe, a soup with rice, milk and chestnuts.
The cured meats are remarkable: taste the salam d l’ula made with pork preserved in fat, as well as the beef and goat meat salami.
Apple chutney as an accompaniment to cheese or polenta is typical in Biella.
Meanwhile, sweets include torcetti, canestrelli and torroni.
And both white and red wines are produced in the area, including Erbaluce and Bramaterra, in addition to the typical liqueur of Piedmont, the Ratafià di Andorno, made with black cherry juice from Andorno Micca.
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