The area between Domodossola and Bassa Ossola contains ancient testimony that tell histories of this estreme part of Italy, close to Switzerland.
Several villages, museums, monuments, places of worships and fortifications, small or big jewels in the frame of the surrounding Alps…
Domodossola, the bulk of 7 Valleys
Domodossola is a lively town located in the heart of Ossola. Situated in the valley of the river Toce, at the foot of the historic hill of Mattarella and Vagna hills, its historic center still remains the medieval flavor. Ossolane center of the valleys and roads converging from every direction, is a place of passage frequented by Italians and foreigners and destination for many tourists and holidaymakers. Its economy is based primarily on the service sector with a predominantly business and craft. The flourishing tourism industry, while not missing any industry.
The patron saints of Domodossola, Gervasio and Protasio, celebrated on June 19 with a Mass in Collegiate followed by a procession through the streets of down town. Festival means but also music, entertainment and solidarity initiatives collateral see the involvement of municipal administration, Associazione Turistica Pro Loco Domodossola, Cultural Association "Oscella Felix", Carnival Committee "Polenta e Sciriuii" and many other local associations. At the foot of Moncucco lies at the heart of the town Vagna, located along the road that leads to Lusentino and skiing facilities of Domobianca. The ancient town of Vagna was quite important and had eleven fractions. In Maggianigo fraction is the parish church of San Brizio, rich in treasures such as canvas of the Visitationa of Mary to Elizabeth, by Antonio d'Errico (Tanzio), the icon of wooden Bartholomew Piroia Zanini, the panels of the mysteries of Rosary.
The parish dates back to fourteenth century. On the left bank of the river rises Bogna fraction Cisore between Mocogna and Monteossolano. Precious the church of Sant'Andrea that seems to be built on the foundations of the castle of Barilone. Close to Mocogna can see the remains of a tower signalling the end of the fifteenth century.
The Church of San Quirico to Cisore dates back to the first half of the century and is supposed to be built on the ruins of a pagan temple dedicated to a deity Celtic-Etruscan.
The museums of Domodossola
Nature Science Museum “Mellerio Rosmini”. This rich collection includes animals, insects, plants and minerals. Open all year on request - from Monday to Saturday 9.00/12.00 – 15.00/17.00.
Simplon Civic Museum. This museum contains information and artefacts relating to the history of the Simplon Pass, its route and events related to the construction of the Railway Tunnel was opened in 1906. Open all year:Friday and Saturday from 9.00 to 12.00 and from 14.30 to 17.00, Tuesday and Wednesday by appointment (Mob. +39 338.5029591).
The Silva Palace is a Renaissance noble palace where wooden pieces and Etruscan and Roman finds are exhibited, as well as fragments of Egyptian mummies, a variety of engravings, costumes of the Ossola Valley and weapons. Inside this palace, we can also see the San Francesco Palace's collection (which is being restored at present), which comprises minerals and specimens of animals from the Ossola Valley and from outside Europe, ethnographic collections coming mainly from Africa and from South-America and numismatic pieces.
Free admission - open on request. Closed Saturday and Sunday.
The Calvario Sacred Mount of Domodossola
Leaving the streets of Rosmini and Mattarella, crossing over the “Dalla Chiesa” city by-pass you come to a paved path which leads you to the top of “Colle di Mattarella” (400 metres above sea level). There are 15 little sanctuaries along this path in which life size statues portray the course of Christ’s Passion. The “Sacro Monte Calvario”, built in the middle of the 17th century, sits at the top of this hill and has represented a special Nature Reserve since 1991. Recently it has also been recognised as a UNESCO heritage.
The castle and gardens of the Rosmini's priests
Even today the ruins of the medieval castle, once a military rampart and the Ossola Administrative offices, dominate the “Colle di Mattarella”, creating an ideal setting for peaceful walks with enchanting views over the valley.The Rosminian Convent rises next to these ruins and its gardens (open to the public) not only offer an oasis of peace, but are also a haven of plants, even exotic ones such as sequoias, camphors, yews, conifers and other ornamental shrubs. “Sacro Monte Calvario" Nature Reserve has also set up an acclimatizing centre for nocturnal birds of prey creating a point of interest for those who love both nature and animals.
The Castle of Vogogna
The castle was built in 1348 by Giovanni Visconti, Bishop of Novara and Lord and Archbishop of Milan and was designed to defend the small centre of Vogogna and the entire valley. Walls, enclosing the centre of the village were also built, to improve its fortification.
Today, there is almost no trace of this boundary wall, whereas the castle of the Visconti family, with its towers and typical battlemented walls, preserved its powerful medieval grandeur through time.
Located near the slope of the adjacent mountain, it dominates the entire ancient village and is the undisputed reference point. The architectural structure is simple, with an irregular plan, like all the Alpine castles, which had to adapt to the morphological features of the site.
The buildings that make up the structure were built in different stages, starting with the most ancient part, which seems to be the rectangular tower that delimits the main building towards the mountain.
At the opposite end there is the most typical part, namely the semi-circular tower with a scarp base dating back to the 15th century, defended by machicolations beneath the lookout area. This tower was joined to the walls that surrounded the village and to the pre-existing castle wall. The main entrance of the castle was later closed to the outside by another wall that transformed the area in front of it into the current internal courtyard. Access to the castle was therefore moved to the opposite part, on the side of a new enclosure set in a higher position.
Ornavasso: the Ancient Quarry and the Cadorna Line
The presence of the marble of Ornavasso had already been proved during the Roman Époque by stelae and altars of the I and II centuries A.D., which are now preserved in the Civic Museums of Archaeological Collections in the Sforzesco Castle of Milan.
Beginning from the XIII century, the waterway from the River Toce, through Lake Maggiore, the River Ticino, the Naviglio Grande as far as the Darsena of Milan favoured the employ of local marble for the construction of several important Lombard monuments.
The Ancient Quarry in Ornavasso is one of the first examples of excavation in a gallery. On the right and on the left some chimneys, which were used for rooms ventilation and as dump for rejected materials from the up levels, are in fact well visible.
Next to the quarry entry, the first chimney is lightened and lets the visitors admire the majesty of spaces as well as the skilled workers’ ability of that time.
Along the gallery there are 1 meter high walled up niches, which permitted to charge unloaded materials on rail-wagons directly and bring them outside.
In the largest niches there was the winch. Opposite to them, the support for fixing the pulley and the hook for hanging it in the middle of the vault can still be seen.
The Cadorna Line is a thick network of military fortifications built to defend the northern border of Italy close to Switzerland. The fortified lines protected the Italian territory between the Gran San Bernardo and Valtellina.
Within the Ossola these fortifications spread out between the Toce plain and Monte Massone in the territory of Ornavasso with a sloping difference of over 2000 mt.
Today the Cadorna Line represent a rich excursion and trekking patrimony used also by the Civil Protection; as a complex of military archaeology it is quite striking not only for the grandeur of the works but also because through it one can relive a moment of the history of this century; as a point of excellence it is a demonstration of the popular will to protect and valorize it as a symbol of the values connected to it, the ingenuity, the industriousness and the continuity of a possibly future pacific use.