The picturesque town of Ivrea is in north-west Italy, near Turin and although it is not a major tourist destination there are several interesting sights - most notably the cathedral and Roman ruins.
The town also holds a traditional carnival and the Battle of the Oranges (see further down) which is a popular time to visit Ivrea.
Your visit to the town of Ivrea can start from the Piazza Castello and Ivrea castle. Work on building the castle, with its four angular cylindrical towers and a large central courtyard, began in 1358 and was completed in 1395. The castle was built by Amadeus VI, and it has a solid structure, characterized by the high circular towers and lightened only by the presence of single-light windows.
In the 18th century the castle was transformed into a prison, a role that it held until 1970, when major renovations began.
Leaving the castle continue towards the Bishop's Palace. The exact period of construction is unknown, but its origins are very ancient and it is thought to have been the home of Bishop Warmondo in the 10th century.
The palace is a collection of buildings from different periods, but they are still some medieval architectural features, such as the Bishop's Tower, which exceeds the roof level by a few meters, and the roof and preserves some special terracotta decorations.
Ivrea Cathedral and Crypt
Continuing on you reach Ivrea Cathedral, with three naves, which preserves several features dating back to the Cathedral of Warmondo despite many restorations that have been carried out over the centuries - these include the semicircular apse and two bell towers of Romanesque style.
The two towers are very similar, and are divided into several tiers with decorations and hanging arches, while the top of each side features open mullioned windows.
Beneath the church the cathedral crypt was built in two stages. The oldest part is semicircular and located under the apse, and surmounted by cross vaults supported by columns. The more recent part dates from the 12th century and is divided into three naves.
In the crypt there is an ancient Roman marble sarcophagus that belonged to Quaestor Gaius Valerius Atecius (2nd half of the first century BC) which is very well preserved, and three tombs of the ancient Bishops of the city. To the rear of the cathedral there are the remains of the Cloister of the Chapter of Canons.
Between the 12th and 15th century the cathedral was decorated with various paintings and sculptures and in the 16th century the chapels along the aisles were erected. It was then further enlarged in the second half of the 19th century and the current neo-classical façade was built.
Leaving the cathedral, near Via Arboreo you can find the 18th century seminary, while in Ottinetti square is the Civic Museum.
Art in Ivrea Civic Museum
The Civic Museum in Ivrea is dedicated to the scholar Peter Alexander Garda (1791-1880) and has a section of Eastern and Archaeological art, and a number of frescoes from the 15th and 17th century.
One unexpected highlight is the Garda Collection of Oriental art, collected by Peter Alexander Garda in the late 19th century. According to experts it is one of the most important collections of Oriental art outside Japan, and contains a great wealth of archaeological finds, mainly dedicated to the colony of "Eporedia" and its origins.
Also in the museum, the Guelpa Collection includes a wide selection of paintings from the 14th to 20th centuries, such as the “Crucifixion” by Giovanni del Biondo (14th century), “Madonna with the Child”, by Neri di Bicci (1418-1492), “Christ removed from the cross”, attributed to Ambrogio da Fossano (1453-1523) and others.
Art of the 20th century is represented by “Portrait of a woman” by Filadelfo Simi (1849-1923) and many works by Pietro Annigoni (1910-1988), an "intimate” painter, sensitive to natural landscapes, and family life.
Also in the museum you can see furniture and other antiques collected in the early twentieth century by Abdone Croff (1893-1946), who was a great friend of Pietro Annigoni.
Continuing to explore Ivrea
Passing along the Corso Massimo d'Azeglio you find a country road that leads to the Roman Amphitheatre, dating from the Late-Imperial Roman Age.
Also worth a visit is the 15th century Church of San Bernardino, with its frescoes depicting events from the "Life of Jesus". The oldest part of the church was built in the first half of the 15th century by the convent of the Franciscan order.
The church layout has a rectangular plan with vaulted ceilings, typical of the gothic style of architecture, and in the monastery you can see two cloisters, the cells of the dormitory, the refectory and laboratories.
In the second half of the 15th century an aisle was added that allowed easier access to the public, divided by a partition from the early church with three arches. This expansion included the construction of two side chapels, and an increase in size that gave an area directly connected to the monastery and reserved for the choir.
Places to visit near Ivrea and local cuisine and traditions
Every year, during the important Carnival in the town during the week before Shrove Tuesday, Ivrea hold a procession in which thousands of people take part and which is also the perfect time to visit and also to taste the most famous local products. Lovers of sweets and chocolate will be delighted to discover the "cake 900", based on sponge-cake and chocolate cream!
The Carnival in Ivrea includes the famous Battle of Oranges - a very lively event which involves hundreds of tons of oranges being thrown at people and represents the overthrow of a tyrant here in the 12th century. Personally we haven't taken part in the battle, but recommend you bring a change of clothing if you will be here at that time!
Generally, the food of Ivrea is typical of the Piedmont region and based largely on rice. For many centuries rice was a vital source of food for the inhabitants of this region and people have invented many variations in its use, from rice and duck to rice with champagne and shrimp, to the "Paniscia", a rice-soup with vegetables, bacon, beans, sausage, salame and wine.
Not far from Ivrea you can visit the Lake of Viverone, where remains have been found from the Bronze Age and which is now a popular tourist destination.
See also history of Ivrea
Map of Ivrea and places nearby
Ivrea places to visit
See more places nearby in the Piedmont guide