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Novara is an important regional town in Piedmont with an interesting historic centre to explore and several important historic monuments and artworks to enjoy. In the city you will find buildings from the medieval and renaissance periods as well as others from the 19th century expansion of Novara.
Explore Novara: tourism and travel
The most interesting part of Novara for visitors is the historic centre, which contains several interesting buildings and some attractive streets lined with arcaded buildings, broader tree-lined boulevards and several substantial open squares. Start your visit in the main square, the Piazza della Repubblica.
The highlight in this piazza is the Broletto, a group of buildings including the Town Hall and an attractive 15th century arcaded building with a courtyard which was once the heart of Novara (although we thought it could benefit from some trees and planting to make it rather less austere).
The square is lined on all sides by historic buldings, small palaces, the Town Museum and the Novara Museum of Modern Art.
In the square you can also visit Novara cathedral (the Duomo). Built in the 19th century in neo-classical style it replaced a 12th century church that previously stood here. Inside the cathedral you can find some works of art of great interest from the Renaissance period as well as mosaics, cloisters and some medieval frescoes that remain from the earlier church on the site.
It is said that the duomo stands on the site of a Roman temple, which is perhaps the reason why the architect chose to incorporate neo-classical columns around the cathedral.
Opposite the cathedral is the baptistry, a rare example of early Christian architecture which dates from the 5th-6th century and is the oldest building in the city. Here you can also see some ancient frescoes that show scenes from the apocalypse.
Another notable highlight of a visit is the Basilica of San Gaudenzio, with its impressive domed roof topped by a spire. The basilica itself was built in the 16th-17th centuries on the site of an earlier basilica, with the very substantial multi-tiered cupola (122 metres high) added in the middle of the 19th century by Antonelli. The basilica belltower dominates the Novara skyline.
Inside the basilica there are more interesting artworks from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Outside the historic center there are larger squares and boulevards, such as the expansive Piazza Martiri della Liberta, with it's imposing statue of Victor Emmanuel II* dominating the centre of the square and a large number of grand 19th century buildings in the 'neo-classical' style, as well as various older buildings such as the 16th century palazzo Tornielli-Bellini.
These boulevards largely stand where the defensive walls around the historic center were found until the early 20th century, at which time they were largely demolished to allow the expansion of the town.
* Victor Emanuelle was the founder of modern Italy, with the unification treaty of 1861 and you will frequently see statues and commemorative structures dedicated to him as you travel across Italy.
Note: main picture shows the Basilica of San Gaudenzio in Novara.
Where is Novara?
Novara is located to the east of the Piedmont region of north-west Italy, a short distance north-east of Vercelli. It is about 50 kilometres west of the lovely town of Milan and south from the popular Lake Orta. Novara is the second largest town in the region, after Turin.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Piedmont guide.