The Province of Vercelli lies in northeastern Piedmont, extending along the Sesia River from Monte Rosa to the Po River, through the Baragge and flatlands southeast of the provincial capital.
The countryside is varied and intriguing, from the summits of the Alpine massif, the indisputable king of ski localities; to the gentle slopes of the Gattinara Hills, covered by vines, woods and criss-crossed by rivers; and the vast plains.
A spectacular panorama of rice paddies characterize Vercelli, one of Europe’s leading rice producers: rows of poplar trees divide the plain symmetrically, submerged for most of the year and reflecting the sky's many colors and hues. The reserves are many here, including the Parco Naturale Lame del Sesia, with its wetlands and heron nests; the Po River Park (the Alessandrino-Vercellese tract), perfect for bird watching; and the Parco Naturale Alta Valsesia, an Alpine park that extends all the way to Mount Rosa.
The whole territory is replete with art and history, as can be seen in the architecture of the old town of Vercelli, while Alagna and other northern hamlets still preserve their Walser traditions in a fairytale-like atmosphere.
The Gattinara Hills and flatlands also possess a remarkable historical heritage of castles, picturesque Medieval villages, and religious sites lying along the Via Francigena.
Exploration of the territory begins in Vercelli, dominated by the imposing Romanesque-gothic Basilica di Sant'Andrea, and by the Duomo with its high Medieval bell tower.
Among the various attractions that should not be passed over is the Borgogna Museum, a collection of the most important artworks in Piedmont; its paintings date from the Renaissance to the 1800s.
The Varesina Valley offers an evocative landscape with wonderful views of the Gattinara Hills, where the Sacro Monte di Varallo is located.
The Sacri Monti or Sacred Mounts together make up a sanctuary inspired by holy sites in Palestine. This extremely important architectural complex is a World Heritage Site.
Interesting historical villages rich in artistic and religious remains include Santhià, Trino and the district of Lucedio, where its magnificent Medieval abbey can be admired.
An exploration of the rice paddies and ancient farmsteads leads to Arborio, renowned for its quality rice production, and then to Crescentino, with its interesting historic center.
Other interesting landmarks are Gattinara, where the wine of the same name is produced, and picturesque Varallo and its Sacro Monte.
Alagna Valsesia is a particularly charming resort, rich in ancient traditions and artworks, and surrounded by the magnificent scenery of the Alps.
The elegant Castle of Moncrivello is a must, as is the Castle of San Genuario, dominating the Vercelli countryside.
The environmental variety here means many sports and outdoor activities are available.
The Vercelli plains are ideal for bike rides amongst the rice paddies, herons and uncontaminated scenery.
The Valsesia Mountains and their major tourist resorts in the Alps of Mera and Alagna are perfect for winter sports: skiing, snowboarding, mountaineering, climbing and trekking.
Like many of the parks and green stretches throughout Vercelli Province, the Alta Valsesia Natural Park provides many trails for mountain-biking, ofvarying degrees of difficulty.
In the Parco Naturale Regionale Lame del Sesia, gymnastic, botanical and nature routes are available, as well as bird watching for numerous species.
The lakes and rivers are rather inviting for those who enjoy canoeing, kayaking, rafting and fishing.
The territory offers innumerable special events: the "Trofeo De Rege" is a national shooting competition in Vercelli itself, while the International Festival of Ancient Music takes place in Varallo Sesia. Interested in cars? Try the Automobile Parade on Good Friday in Vercelli, or go the route of a typical products fair, with the Alpàa, an exhibition and market in Varallo Sesia.
And more intense foodies can explore the many local festivals that are dedicated to the area's gastronomic specialities.
The Province of Vercelli has many gastronomic traditions linked to its various environments and all based on local produce.
The specialty of the traditional cuisine is the risotto, including the “panissa vercellese,” agnolotti, similar to ravioli with beef or salame stuffing – served at the major festivals – the fagiolata (bean festival) and polenta concia.
Among the main courses, frogs are popular, cooked in various ways, as well as cjvet hare, acciughe con ‘ibagnet vert’ (that is, anchovies with garlic, parsley and hot pepper sauce), fried pork, and fried rognose omelettes, prepared with minced salame.
Typical products include the cheese, toma valsesiana, cold cuts and mocetta (air-cured goat ham), and leg of chamois.
The typical Vercelli desserts are bicciolani, cinnamon-flavored shortcrust pastry biscuits; tartufata cake with cream; and biscuits such as canestrelli and torcettini.
The Province is also renowned for its prestigious wines, especially Gattinara, Bramaterra and Coste del Sesia.