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Vigevano is the most important town in the fertile Italian rice producing region called Lomellina (also called the Holland of Lombardy), an immense plain containing many paddy fields and crossed by numerous watercourses.
Although we suggest you start your visit in Vigevano itself, to fully appreciate the arts and architecture of the Lomellina region it is necessary to leave Vigevano and explore other towns nearby such as Lomello and Mortara.
Your visit to Vigevano and the Lomellina should start from the majestic Piazza Ducale in the centre Vigevano, with its arcades at ground level on both sides of the square as well as a 17th century cathedral, a famous Tower by Bramante, and also the Royal Palace of the Sforza. Under the arcades of this attractive square you can find shops and cafes, while on the upper stories you can see attractive frescoes decorating the walls.
Vigevano Cathedral, which dominates one end of the square, was built by Francesco II Sforza following a plan by Antonio da Lonate (1456 c.-1541 c.), a lengthy job that was only finished around 1612. As you enter the Cathedral pay attention to the scenes depicted in the doorway of the façade.
Inside, the cathedral is best known for the Treasure, donated to the Cathedral by Francesco II Sforza in 1534. The treasury includes more than 100 precious objects, among which are various tapestries and precious manuscripts.
Back outside on the Palazzo you can also see the castle tower (the Torre del Bramante) and the castello. The Palazzo delle Dame and the Loggias are decoratively painted and finished by Bramante whose art works are still visible although unfortunately many of the original paintings are now lost.
You can climb to the top of the tower for views down across Vigevano. Also to see in Vigevano there are some 17th and 18th century churches such as the Church of Saint Bernard (1672) and the Church of San Dionysius (1750). Among the palaces, the most notable are the Saporiti Palace (1828) and the Cagnoni Theatre (1873), in the neoclassic style.
Next head to Lomello, the town which gave its name to the region. In Lomello there are some important historic and architectural artefacts such as the 7th century baptistry of San Giovanni ad Fontes, erected in Longobard times. The building has an octagonal structure, a beautiful dome and is surrounded by rectangular and circular chapels in the Romanesque style.
The same architectural style can be seen in the 11th century Church of Santa Maria Maggiore, with its extraordinary rectangular bell tower in the sides of which four large Roman archs are visible.
Mortara: art in the cathedral
Painting is well represented in the Cathedral of Mortara, where you can see a Crucifixion by Giovan Battista Crespi (aka Cerano) dating from 1610, and also important works by Giulio Cesare Procaccino and Genovesino. There is also an interesting Virgin Mary of the Rosary (1578) by local painter Bernardino Lanino, while other interesting paintings here are by Girolamo Giovenone, with an altar piece of Virgin Mary and Child in the Church of San Lorenzo.
Close to Mortara you can visit the 5th century Abbey of St. Albino which, according to tradition, was rebuilt by Charles the Great.
Eating well in Lomellina: frogs!
With its landscape of channels, rivers and paddy fields, the local cuisine of Lomellina has many dishes arising from the local peasant tradition, based on frogs in particular, which thrive in the marsh environment. One local dish born from the abundance of frogs is 'minestra in brodo di rane' (Soup with frogs). We also suggest tasting the "Guazzetto" (frogs, butter, oil and tomato), which is a popular local tit-bit.
Where is Vigevano?
The town of Vigevano is situated to the north-west of Pavia and south-east of Novara in the Lombardy region of northern Italy. In a location between the Rivers Ticinor, Sesia and Po, the town is about 30 kilometres south-west of Milan.
You can find more local travel ideas in the Lombardy guide.