In this section we briefly illustrate some of the most beautiful places to visit, including ancient woolen mills, museums, historic buildings, monasteries, and jewels of industrial archeology.
A small gem housing the exceptional cultural heritage of the famous Biellese brand, which contributed to making the history of beer in our country. An educational experience in the world of beer, through which the visitor can discover its history, the raw materials it employs, the original machinery, the tools of the ancient coopers, the advertising posters and the numerous awards the company has received. A business success intertwined with the history of the Menabrea and Thedy families.
The visit takes you through the history of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, which stretches back to 1910, in an extraordinary context in which the factory merges into the surrounding mountain environment. The permanent exhibition “A Hundred Years of Excellence” documents the development of the family business through four generations committed to fulfilling the vision and the ideal of its founder: quality, continuous innovation, social and environmental responsibility.
In 2011, UNESCO included 111 prehistorical stilt house villages in the Alps among its World Heritage Sites. The village Vil-Emissario in Viverone is one of them, and it’s considered one of the most important in the entire Alpine arc. This settlement, composed of thousands of stilts and with an estimated population of 100s, can rightly be regarded as on a par with a big city from the 2nd millennium BC. The Documentation Centre of the village illustrates the history of the archaeological site dating back to 1450 BC and preserves finds discovered at the bottom of the lake.
The hamlet of Bagneri (900 m a.s.l.) is a testimony to the work of generations of Alpine dwellers who gradually transformed the original environment. The association Friends of Bagneri strives to keep this small community alive with activities supporting the few inhabitants, linking the recovery of material culture to the creation of new artisans’ workshops. You can reach Bagneri taking the SP512 of Tracciolino (5 km east of the hamlet of Bossola) or the SP511 between Muzzano and the Sanctuary of Graglia (both routes conclude with 10 minutes on foot).
The “Fabbrica della Ruota” (the former Zignone wool mill) was built around 1878. It’s one of the most well-known examples of industrial archaeology in Italy, having maintained the 19th century multi-storey plant in Manchesterian style and the “teledynamic” system of energy transmission. It houses the Documentation Centre of the Textile Industry, composed of about 60 different archives and a specialised library.
The Fabbrica is located at the centre of the “Wool Road”, a string of industrial archaeology sites.
Miagliano is the site of one of the most important cotton complexes in Italy, founded by the Poma family in the 19th century, and later accompanied by a workers’ village. In 1958 it was converted into a wool mill by the Botto Group, active till the very end of the 20th century. The wool mill has now been given a new lease of life thanks to the intervention of the consortium Biella The Wool Company, which has established a line of communication between farmers and the textile supply chain, and the association Friends of Wool, promoting the redevelopment of the factory as a cultural centre through educational, artistic and performative instruments.
Built in the 11th century not far from where rests of a Roman necropolis were later discovered, the monastery soon became one of the most important Cluniac priorates in Piedmont. Since 2006, it’s been the object of a systematic and multi-year archaeological and historical research programme by the University of Eastern Piedmont “A. Avogadro”. The results of the excavating and of the research have recently been collected into a publication. In 2012 the site was included in the Fédération Européenne des Sites Clunisiens, acknowledged by the European Council as a “cultural itinerary route”.
The San Sebastiano complex, in the Lombard style of Bramante, was built by Sebastiano Ferrero, a key figure of the Biellese Renaissance, connecting this place to the museum sites of Palazzo La Marmora, Candelo’s Ricetto and Palazzo dei Principi in Masserano. Besides looking around the cloister and the cathedral, with its many frescos and works of art, in the museum visitors can expand their knowledge of the Biellese territory and take a journey through time which combines the testimonies preserved in the archaeological section (from the Paleolithic to the Middle Ages) with those from the historical-artistic section (from the Renaissance to the 20th century, refurbished and extended in June 2016).
Built between the 15th and 16th century by the Ferrero family, Palazzo Ferrero used to be connected as one property with Palazzo La Marmora, the Church of San Sudario and Casa Braja. In 1833 the La Marmoras acquired it and then changed its destination of use several times: public offices, textile producing and dying factory, hydrotherapeutic establishment, barracks. In the 1970s, the City of Biella, the current owner, started renovating it, allocating some of the space for local cultural groups. From 2017 it has been managed by the association “Palazzo Ferrero – Miscele Culturali”, which gathers five cultural and educational organisations giving it value.
Already a prestigious noble residence, at the end of the 19th century Palazzo Gromo Losa was purchased by Rosminian nuns, who there founded the Istituto Beata Vergine d’Oropa (BVO). In 2004 the complex was acquired by Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Biella, which completely renovated it, maintaining its cultural and social vocation by housing various organisations and associations. Among its finest features is the splendid Italian garden created by the Biellese benefactor Emanuele Rosa and opened with the palace in 2012.
Palazzo La Marmora is situated in Piazzo, Biella’s historical hamlet. Past the winter garden, you will be guided through history by frescos, paintings and furniture: from Sebastiano Ferrero, who brought Renaissance to Biella; to the ambassador Filippo, who sealed royal unions in the 18th century; to Raffaella, mother to the generals La Marmora, heroes of Risorgimento; to the descendants of Leon Battista Alberti, who moved here in 1899. The Sebastiano Tower overlooks the garden, which opens up towards the city with ramps, a terrace and a nymphaeum. The City of Biella and the La Marmora family are joint owners of the tower.
The Palazzo dei Principi Ferrero-Fieschi, today accommodating Masserano’s Museum Hub and town hall, is characterised by a sequence of ten rooms richly decorated throughout the 17th century, featuring painted coffered ceilings, stuccos and frescos conveying the culture of the local noble family, the Ferrero Fieschis. The building also houses the extremely precious pyramidal wooden altar created by Bartolomeo Tiberino in 1654 for the ancient Church of San Teonesto, still situated just outside Masserano’s residential area.
The Sanctuary of Oropa is among the most important in Europe. It is located in a suggestive valley, a sacred place linked to the cult of a black Madonna called Santa Vergine d’Oropa. According to the tradition, the initiator of the Christian cult in Oropa was Saint Eusebius, bishop of Vercelli in the 4th century AD. The saint would have carried the wooden statue of the Virgin, sculpted by Saint Luke, from Jerusalem to Oropa. The construction of an actual church was recorded in the 13th century. The Sanctuary has since expanded to its current size to accommodate the growing numbers of worshippers. The monumental complex is now composed of the cloister in front of the ancient cathedral (Basilica Antica), the new cathedral (Basilica Nuova) and the side annexes, converted into more than 300 modern rooms for pilgrims. The visit to the Sanctuary of Oropa is much more than a day trip to a famous destination. Memories of it will stay with you: the silences, the clear sky, the trickling of the water flowing from the main fountain (the “Burnell”), the green meadows, where you can enjoy a pick-nick. Areas of interest within the complex are the Treasures Museum, the Royal Apartment, the collection of ex-votos, the Holy Mountain (Sacro Monte) and – booking in advance – the Meteoseismic Observatory and the Library.
The origins of the Sanctuary dedicated to the Madonna of Loreto date back to the beginning of the 17th century, when the local parish priest, Don Nicolao Velotti, decided to transform the Colle di San Carlo (San Carlo’s Hill) into a “Calvary”, emulating what friar Bernardino Caimi had done a century before on the Sacro Monte (the Holy Mountain) at Varallo. A majestic project featuring a temple of considerable dimensions and as many as a hundred chapels with scenes from the life of Jesus represented with life-size statues.
The works, started in 1616, progressed very slowly though, and at the death of Don Velotti the initial fervour for this great achievement subsided, and the project was majorly resized to the idea of building an oratory dedicated to the Madonna della Neve (the Snow Madonna) just outside the village, in the hamlet of Campra.
A new proposal to build a Sanctuary was advanced in 1655. The project was for a grand temple with basic accommodation for pilgrims attached, to be built on the Colle della Divina Bontà (Hill of the Divine Goodness), where there already existed a chapel dedicated to the Madonna of Loreto.
The main promoter of this ambitious project was the Duke Carlo Emanuele II, who appointed Captain Piero Arduzzi, military and civil engineer, to draw the plans for the building. The blessing of the first stone took place on 20th September 1659. Due to the disastrous wars of the following years, the construction was suspended for long periods of time. In 1765 the famous architect Bernardo Antonio was consulted about how to proceed with the works; he injected new vitality into the project, which led to the completion of the structure.
Within a few years the church assumed its present aspect: a 42 x 32 m building in the shape of a Greek cross, culminating in an octagonal dome 38 m high from the ground. The complex has since undergone major extensions and renovation.
Built between 1602 and 1606 around the ancient sacellum, the Sanctuary (at 1020 m a.s.l.) is the only one in Italy dedicated to Saint John the Baptist, represented with a wooden statue from the Renaissance period housed within it. The church features a façade made of local stone and decorated with works by the Galliari brothers from Andorno. It was expanded in the 18th century with the addition of the rectorial benefice and the hospice, and in the 20th century with the addition of the square and the hall underneath it. You can stay in the guest house and the facilities include a restaurant, a meeting room, common areas and exhibition spaces. You can also consult the historical library and the archive.