The most beautiful places in Asti, Novara & Verbano

Countless beautiful places line the Piedmont, Italy’s largest region. They constitute a stunning contrast to world-renowned cities and wow with their little, more often than not hidden gems, predominantly medieval structures, and many an attractive surprise. The private association “I borghi più belli d’Italia” unites these irresistible places. This time we accompany you on a journey to the eastern part of the region checking out the most beautiful places in three provinces bordering Lombardy: Asti, Novara and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola.


Province of Asti

If you hear the name Asti, you mind might wander to the many great wines that come from this province and the areas bordering it. Only breaking off from the Province of Alessandria in 1935, the eponymous capital with just over 76,000 inhabitants is the main attraction without a doubt. However, there are also two particularly beautiful places waiting for you here, both with a certain focus on winegrowing.


© Campagnolo

© Campagnolo


Astounding vineyards run through Cocconato (about 1,400 inhabitants). That’s in line with the Latin origin of the place name: “cumconatu” describes the effort necessary to climb the hill on which Cocconato is situated. Fine wines aside – the grapes are used for the red wine Barbera d’Asti – there are also delicious cheeses waiting to be tasted, plus various culinary events throughout the years. Among the highlights are the long culinary hike on the first weekend in June targeting seven vineyards across seven stages, wine tastings included along these 15 kilometres.


Chiesa della Santissima Trinità was built in 1617 after a civic vote founded on the hopes of providing protection against the raging plague. The spectacular side portico, the sacristy and the façade, however, are all of later periods. Parts of a castle were converted into the town hall. It is one of very few Gothic buildings in the Piedmont, flanked by terracotta tiles and pointed arches. Last but certainly not least, don’t sleep on the parish church Santa Maria della Consolazione from 1669 with numerous astonishing paintings and altarpieces.





Mombaldone is another place of winegrowing importance and with a name pointing to the elevated location: Mons Baldus (after the German world “bald” for “mountain”) signifies the hill that used to house an important monastery. The already well-established Barbera aside, grapes for the red wine Dolcetto d’Asti and the sparkling wine Alta Langa are also grown in Mombaldone. The characteristic local menu – salami (bichiré), homemade pasta (tajarin or ravioli al plìn), boiled meat in green sauce (bagnét) and Robiola cheese with mustard – is served with these fine wines.


You don’t just get to taste the holiday charm of this friendly little municipality with 200 inhabitants. Mombaldone is the only place in the Langa Astigiana still surrounded by its original limestone walls. Starting at the first gate with its medieval shapes, you walk past several impressive churches and the ruins of other buildings, such as the partially destroyed castle built somewhere around the 13th to 14th century. Another massive palace, documented as early as 1209, now houses a restaurant.


Province of Novara

Magnificent cities in the south, lots of water in the north – the Province of Novara with its eponymous capital (exceeding 100,000 inhabitants) promises peak wine indulgence and attractive architecture. Furthermore, the two lakes Lago d’Orta and Lago Maggiore are sights to behold. One of the most beautiful places in Italy charmingly utilises the magic of water.




Orta San Giulio

The name fits the bill: Orta San Giulio is situated on a languet on the eastern shore of Lago d’Orta extending into the lake. The frazione with just over 1,300 inhabitants includes the island San Giulio which is completely surrounded by water. Your path takes you directly to the island’s large basilica with its imposing Romanesque cupola. The mortal remains of Saint Julius, patron saint of the place, supposedly rest in the crypt. According to legend, he freed the island of dragons and snakes.


Unlike many other borghi, Orta San Giulio carries a distinct Renaissance and baroque look. Stop by Piazza Mario Motta on Wednesdays to experience the weekly market which has been taking place since 1228. The fascinating Villa Crespi with its unorthodox oriental style is just as charming as the painted walls in the Legro district. Scenes from movies filmed around the lake line many houses. High above the village you find Sacro Monte d’Orta, one of nine old chapels and pilgrimage sites from the 16th and 17th century that were declared UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.


Province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola

The northern half of the then Province of Novara only became its own province in 1992. Its name is a combination of Verbano (Lago Maggiore and the area around the capital Verbania), Cusio (Lago d’Orta) and Ossola (Val d’Ossola). Several river valleys run through the mountainous area, there are two more Sacri Monti here … and one of the most beautiful places in Italy.





The former farming village documented as early as 970 turned into one of the most important regional capitals with administrative power over most parts of the Val d’Ossola during the Middle Ages. Even a devastating flood in 1328 couldn’t harm Vogogna, its name likely deriving from the Galli Agoni who populated this region before the Romans. However, numerous sights of this place with about 1,700 inhabitants thus were only built in later years.


You absolutely need to check out the castle of the Visconti which was heavily renovated during the 1990s. Built in 1348, it rises high above the place it was originally meant to protect. Actually, the medieval appearance with its tall towers and walls with battlements survived to this very day. The Gothic palace Palazzo Pretorio is home to a spectacular Celtic mascaron. Numerous houses, villages and small churches line the village centre.


Fine wines, deep waters and multifaceted architecture accompany the most beautiful places in Asti, Novara and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola – three particularly charming provinces that might not be the prime touristic destinations in Piedmont, yet are full of all sorts of hidden gems. Mountains, rivers and lakes line a very natural holiday in Northern Italy with culinary variety and medieval charm. Don’t miss out on these

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