Highlights and tour details
The itinerary, which starts from Villa Caccia in Romagnano Sesia, develops in a loop through the territories of the municipalities of Boca, Maggiora, Fontaneto d'Agogna and Ghemme to then return to Romagnano. The entire route follows the architecture of Alessandro Antonelli, who was born in Ghemme and who left his most famous works in 9 municipalities in the Novara area.
The departure point of the itinerary is the majestic Villa Caccia in Romagnano Sesia: situated on a hillock called Monte Cucco, it was the holiday residence of the Counts Caccia di Romentino. Built between 1842 and 1848 to a design by architect Alessandro Antonelli, it is a striking building in neoclassical style. Inside the building is the Ethnographic Museum of Lower Valsesia, which has a collection of machines, tools and ancient implements that bear witness to man's work in the hilly lands, thus linked to viticulture. There are reconstructions of family or social environments (the tavern, the school), a section dedicated to the cinema (among the founders is Adriana Prolo, founder of the Cinema Museum in Turin) and one dedicated to Good Friday in Romagnano, a centuries-old tradition of popular theatre dating back to 1729.
Among the vineyards of Cavallirio are the vineyard cottages, small square or rectangular buildings with one or two floors built from 1800 onwards. Initially used as a shelter for tools, they later became a second home for farmers; here there was a fireplace, a table and benches, while a staircase led up to the loft, which served as a dormitory. Among the most significant are the Cascinotto della Mezzaluna, the Cascinotto della Bottiglia and the Casin Ross.
The old Traversagna road is already included in the Teresian land register of 1722. The route is surrounded by vineyards and a birch wood; to the left it skirts vineyards from where you can admire a splendid panorama; it then descends for a short distance until it rejoins the current Traversagna road, built at the beginning of the last century, which leads from Boca to the hamlet of Torchio di Grignasco and joins the provincial road north of the cemetery of Grignasco.
The imposing Santuario del Santissimo Crocifisso (Sanctuary of the Holy Crucifix) stands in Boca. Its foundation dates back to 1600, on the site of an ancient votive chapel called Anime Purganti (Purgatory Souls), built after a bloody event and featuring a fresco depicting a crucifix. The growing importance of the Sanctuary and the massive influx of pilgrims made it necessary to build a larger and more spacious church. The architect Antonelli was called in and designed a neoclassical temple, which proceeded very slowly, so much so that the architect never saw the end of it; the building site was completed by his son Costanzo. The Sanctuary then collapsed, heavily damaging its left side, and was later damaged by an air raid. Subsequent restoration work and modifications have given the building its current appearance.
You reach Maggiora, where it is worth visiting the parish church of Santo Spirito, a Baroque building containing the "scurolo" of Sant'Agapito, the sepulchre designed by Alessandro Antonelli, who was also responsible for the town planning and the design of the cemetery; Casa Antonelli, a four-floor building with a beautiful garden planted with centuries-old trees, stands in the centre. The building has undergone numerous renovations over the years.
From Maggiora the itinerary continues south towards Fontaneto d'Agogna, where the parish church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin of the Assumption stands. It is of ancient origin but has been extensively altered over the centuries until acquiring its current appearance with the construction of the scurolo in the mid-19th century, designed by Alessandro Antonelli to house the remains of the martyr Alessandro. Circular in shape and covered by a hemispherical dome, the Scurolo recaptures the motifs of Roman classicism; the 12 supporting columns punctuate the spaces within which there are 10 niches with the same number of statues of saints, surmounted by bas-reliefs depicting the life of the saint by Giuseppe Argenti. The white marble altar was also designed by Antonelli.
The SP 22 road from Fontaneto leads to Ghemme, the birthplace of Alessandro Antonelli; a marble plaque on a house in the centre bears witness to this event. The parish church of Santa Maria Assunta was built from 1666 onwards and completed in the mid-18th century. The Scurolo della Beata Panacea (Sepolchre of the Blessed Panacea) stands on the right-hand side of the transept. Built by Antonelli between 1864 and 1875, it is a circular space with frescoes and polychrome stained-glass windows recounting the main events in the life of the young shepherdess, virgin and martyr, who was killed on the Quarona mountains and whose remains were brought to Ghemme. The Blessed Patron Saint of Valsesia is a constant object of worship and the processions through the streets of the town on the occasion of the festival of the patron saint (at the beginning of May) are particularly evocative.
In the centre of the village stands the ancient castle-ricetto, a medieval fortification that served to defend the population and food supplies in the event of attacks. The houses inside the ricetto are on three levels: the ground floor was often used as a cellar, the first floor as a dwelling and the attic as a storeroom. Its surface area was about 12,000 square metres, it had perimeter walls, a moat and corner towers; with a central spine road leading to the inner courtyards; the walls were made of pebbles arranged in a herringbone pattern interspersed with rows of bricks.