Santhià: Between Turin and Milan, a Historic and Mysterious Stop-off Along the Via Francigena

Places not to be missed on a getaway break in Piedmont. 

28 Feb 2020

Gruppo UNA

Santhià is a town in the province of Vercelli, about 30 minutes by car from Biella or  45 minutes from Turin. Famous for its historic Carnival (and more), its monuments and nature reserves are well worth a visit. A good place to start? Read on for our suggestions for a full tour.

Must-see monuments: the Collegiate Church of Santa Agata.

Santhià, a historic staging post along the Via Francigena, owes the original pronunciation of its name to a crasis for “Saint Agatha”, the holy martyr from Catania. The beautiful Duomo in Piazza Roma, the Collegiate Church of Sant’Agata, is dedicated to her. The Church was completely destroyed in 1117 but restored in 1836 by architect Giuseppe Talucchi, who designed a sacred building in neoclassical style with a three-nave plan. The building is famous for its vaults frescoed by Paolo Emilio Morgari, Luigi Hartman and Carlo Costa, and for its sacred paintings which are a fine example of the Vercelli Renaissance pictorial style. 
Not to be missed: the valuable polyptych painted by Gerolamo Giovenone, and the nineteenth-century Serassi brothers’ organ, a veritable masterpiece for this kind of instrument. 

The mysterious and uninhabited village of Vettignè.

Hidden away in the countryside around Santhià is the old village of Vettignè, a fifteenth-century medieval settlement in the Vercelli area. When you first see it from afar, framed by the local countryside, its walls and tower can take your breath away. With its quadrangular plan, the castle has a large courtyard inside, filled with the surviving (in places ruined) buildings. Although the buildings are in sore need of restoration, such is the beauty of the colours in this uninhabited place, such is the uniqueness of this abandoned old village, that it is well worth a visit, especially for photographers.

Typical Vercelli regional cuisine.

This part of Italy is known not just for its monuments but for its fabulous cuisine. Get ready for a host of dishes worth tasting! Regional ingredients and recipes stand out for their strong, savoury, genuine local flavours. Rice is the typical basic ingredient of this tasty fare, especially in a dish called Panissa, traditional Santhià risotto. Equally inviting is the fagiolata, a typical dish made during the carnival period, frogs cooked in a variety of ways, deep-fried dishes (which were a staple for countryfolk around Vercelli), and omelettes with salami crumbled in. Red Saluggia beans, once known as the “meat of the poor”, have been cultivated around here for as long as rice, and are a basic ingredient of many delicious traditional dishes. 




Luxury shopping you can’t miss.

What if you feel a sudden urge to go shopping? Fashion outlets abound around these parts, making it a great place to freshen up your wardrobe with something new. For example, The Place Luxury Outlet offers luxury clothing in a relaxed environment at affordable prices: an exclusive shopping experience perfect for people who love bespoke, high-quality garments. 
A name synonymous with elegance, Ermenegildo Zegna, has long had its wool mill here. For women’s clothing, check out Agnona, a leader in the production of garments made from rare yarns including fine Australian wool, alpaca from Peru, and cashmere and silk from Tibet and China. 



Where to stay.

A getaway from the chaos deserves a carefree stay, during which you can relax without giving up anything, as a true icon of hospitality promises. The combination of nature and refinement is perfect and guaranteed by choosing Principi di Piemonte | UNA Esperienze, historic 5-star hotel in the heart of Turin, in a privileged urban location. Symbol of ancient splendor, the hotel is hosted in an impressive Rationalist-style building, one of Turin’s most refined architectural jewels.

Principi di Piemonte | UNA Esperienze