Varallo, Piemonte

26 Jun


This past week-end we decided to continue our exploration of the neighbouring region of Piemonte.  Over the last months we’ve visited the surrounding vineyards of  Gattinara, the small city of Vercelli and the quaint little town of Moleto.   We are always so surprised at how many lovely little spots we come across within an hour of our home.  And we wonder why in the world we haven’t been visiting these places over the last decade.  Then we promptly remember that with 3 small kids there were actually whole week-ends that we didn’t even manage to get all of dressed and out the door let alone to go visit a nearby town.  In any case, we are really enjoying these week-end trips and have a growing list of places we eventually want to visit.

On Sunday morning we woke up to a gorgeous, clear day and headed out towards the small town of Varallo (pop.7400) which is situated on the Sesia River and at the foothills of the Alps.  IMG_9255

We had a short 1 hour drive to arrive from Lago Maggiore and the kids were so excited to hike up the famous Sacro Monte di Varallo which is known to be the oldest in Italy.  Founded in 1491 the Sacro Monte houses 45 chapels, the basilica and over 800 painted statues.


We were expecting a long 3 hour hike up a mountain but in the end it was a short 20 minute stroll up to the small plateau where you could visit all the little chapels, the basilica and enjoy the panoramic views over the town of Varallo below.


I’m always so surprised at how interested my kids are in the history and stories behind these places.  They spend ages studying the frescos, reading the information signs and asking questions of every kind (thank goodness Papa is there to answer most of them).
IMG_9291After a very warm walk in the full noon sun we decided to head down into the town for some lunch and a little more exploring.

IMG_9329After a short search for a good typical restaurant we arrived at La Sfinge which ended up having a really lovely outdoor terrace looking over the Sesia River.  My daughter was in heaven when they brought her a wooden platter with various local cheeses and jams and my husband enjoyed his (wintery) meal of Polenta with Porcini.

After lunch we strolled around the very quaint (and quiet) little town and looked in all the antique shops which sold everything from clothing from the 1800s to every tool needed for working wool (which this area is famous for).  Slowly, large black clouds started to cover the skies and we just made it back to our car in time to avoid a downfall.

On our way back home we were driving through a small village and the kids started noticing people dressed in medieval costumes everywhere.  We stopped and quickly asked what was going on and someone told us that the yearly palio was about to start.  A palio is a sort of town event where all the different neighbourhoods compete against each other.  Sometimes it’s a horse race (Siena), sometimes it’s various physical competitions and sometimes, as in this case, it was a parade where all the different neighbourhoods dressed up in their special colours and period costumes.

IMG_9404As you can imagine my son was super excited to see all the armoured guards, knights and soldiers.

My daughters on the other hand admired all the beautifully dressed princesses, queens and maidens.IMG_9390And the rain stopped just as the parade started and started up again as we were slowly driving away.

It was one of those days where luck was on our side.

If you’re ever visiting Piemonte I would strongly recommend the Valsesia area.  There are many lovely little towns and castles to visit and world class hiking trails and rafting available.


5 Responses to “Varallo, Piemonte”

  1. grammao June 26, 2013 at 14:16 #

    a magical day. Your photos are stunning, so colourful.

  2. Judith June 26, 2013 at 21:12 #

    What a lucky day! And so many pretty pictures, Jill. That hat in the last pictures is amazing!

    • Jillian In Italy June 26, 2013 at 23:15 #

      Put it on your list of places to visit when you’re in the area Judith!

  3. Meg June 30, 2013 at 22:07 #

    hi Jillian!

    I just came across to your blog… really beautiful blog!
    I’m from Turin and been here for 7 years yet I still have so many places to…

    you have great blog full with interesting posts and I honestly can’t wait to read more!!!

    take care..

    xoxo,Meg of Sweet Gala’s


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