Novara is a delightful city in the heart of the Piedmont region of North West Italy. This city has a population of 105,000 and is the capital of the Novara Province. Situated between the important cities of Turin and Milan, Novara has a great strategic location and serves as a hub for commercial traffic between the two major economic powers. This city was originally settled in Roman times and was built close to one of the main Roman roads running from Vercelli to Milan. In subsequent eras, Novara became part of the Lombard League, the Habsburg Empire, and eventually part of the unified Kingdom of Italy.
As a tourist destination, Novara benefits from close connections to both Milan and Turin and you can easily reach these cities on the busy A4 road. Furthermore, Novara has a host of fantastic historical buildings such as the Novara pyramid, the Broletto and the Basilica di San Gaudenzio. Additionally, this city has some beautiful parks and a range of high quality restaurants and bars that server authentic Italian food and drink.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Novara:
1. Basilica di San Gaudenzio
This cathedral is undoubtedly the centrepiece of the city and can be seen from virtually anywhere due to its immense central cupola and basilica standing at 121m high.
The central dome towers above the surrounding structures and is a masterpiece of 19th century architecture – it features several different tiers and has a series of ornate columns.
Inside the church is just as opulent and decorative and features a series of chapels covered in colourful frescos.
The Chapel of Good Faith for example features a central Renaissance painting and the surrounding walls, arch and ceiling are covered with some absolutely gorgeous artwork.
As the preimier religious building in Novara, this basilica really will leave an impression.
2. Museo di Storia Naturale Faraggiana Ferrandi
This delightful museum has the benefit of a free entry and is also in a central location – right next to the Duomo di Novara.
For those who appreciate the natural world and wildlife, the museum has a brilliant display of taxidermy animals such as reindeer, badgers, kingfishers, lions, tigers and even a polar bear.
Each display is well presented and has a wealth of information relating to the habitat and lifecycle of the animal.
This is a wonderful place to take your children – they will love the animals and they will also find the museum hugely educational.
3. Teatro Coccia
The Coccia theatre is one of the most important theatrical structures in the Piedmont region and is located in the Giacomo Puccini square next to the Parco dei Bambini.
Constructed in the 19th century, the theatre has a grand façade and exterior and features a series of white columns combined with cream wall sections.
The inside is magnificent, especially when lit up before a show – 4 levels of private boxes surround the stage in a semi-circular pattern and each row is lit up with golden lamps.
The domed ceiling has a golden pattern and an immense crystal chandelier in the centre.
If you get the chance to watch an opera here then do not pass up on the chance – it is sure to be an unforgettable experience.
4. Novara Cathedral
Whilst the Basilica di San Gaudenzio is often considered to be the main religious structure in Novara, the Duomo di Novara is just as important and features a Neoclassical design.
Located in the heart of the historic town centre next to the Teatro Coccia, the front façade of this church looks more like a Roman temple – several stone columns support a triangular pediment, and this columned design continues down the side of the Piazza della Republica.
Inside the church, the ceiling is supported by several rows of dark columns and the central altar has a huge golden cross and some beautiful artwork.
The Broletto is a complex of historic buildings in the centre of Novaro that are located only a short distance from the Duomo and Teatro Coccia.
As this complex has been developed over many hundreds of years it features four distinct architectural styles and is a truly interesting piece of history.
From the inner courtyard, you can see the different styles and the Palace of the Paratici is undoubtedly the most beautiful with a dual layer of delicate arches.
Aside from the beautiful architecture, the Broletto also features a modern art gallery that has a collection of over 800 different pieces of post 19th century Italian art.
6. The Novara pyramid
This bizarre structure is well-known in Novara and it is actually called the Ossuary of Bicocca.
Located on the Via Marzo 1849 in the southern part of Novara, this stone pyramid was built to hold the ashes of fallen soldiers from the notorious Battle of Novara in the 19th century.
Surrounded by a pleasant garden, the monument looks quite out of place against the relative urban area that it is located.
Above the doorway, there is a large bronze bird guarding the entrance and a white cross above this to signify its funerary purpose.
Although you can’t enter the pyramid, it is still an interesting site and a piece of the history of Novara.
7. Visit the historic old town of Vercelli
Another fantastic destination in close proximity to Novara is the charming town of Vercelli – this town is just a 30 minute drive to the south west of Novara and trains run between the two destinations every 8 minutes.
Vercelli is known as one of the oldest urban settlements in Northern Italy and has a range of fantastic historical structures and sites.
Notable attractions include the stunning Vercelli Cathedral, the gorgeous Basilica of Saint Andrew and the Vercelli Synagogue.
Furthermore, Vercelli has some fantastic architecture such as the Torre dell’Angelo and the Teatro Civico.
If you are looking for a cultural day trip, head on over to Vercelli!
8. Parco Naturale delle Lame del Sesia
If you want to explore the Italian countryside, the Parco delle lame del Sesia is a wonderful place to visit and is just a 15 minute drive to the west of Novara.
This protected area is located on the banks of the River Sesia and covers a long stretch of the waterway running alongside the SP594 road.
You can explore this piece of countryside using the various footpaths that wind adjacent to the river, or by simply heading off track and exploring the forests and pastures.
You could also consider hiring a bicycle from Albano which Is a small town on the western side of the reserve.
This is also a great spot for wildlife and you can see some interesting bird species including Cormorants, Gulls and the Horned Goose.
9. Parco dei Bambini
The Parco dei Bambini is a wonderful place to relax, soak up the sun, and take a break from sight-seeing.
This public park can be found in the south western part of the historic town centre next to the Teatro Coccia.
In the centre of the park there is a charming water feature that has an ornate stone bridge – this centrepiece is a great place for photos.
Additionally, the park is full of beautiful trees and well maintained footpaths.
Furthermore, there are several historic statues and monuments, plus other opulent water features that give the park some character and class.
10. Take a day trip to Milan
Novara is only 50km to the west of Milan and has great access to this bustling city.
There are regular trains that run from the centre of Novara into central Milan every 30 minutes.
Milan is a fantastic tourist destination and has some world class sites such as the beautiful Gothic Duomo, the Galleria del Vittorio Emmanuelle and Sforza Castle.
Furthermore, Milan is simply amazing for those who love to shop and browse through high-end designer stores such as Gucci, Prada and Luis Vuitton.
If you have thoroughly explored Novara, why not take a trip to Milan and see what it has to offer?
11. Visit the town of Arona on Lake Maggiore
Vercelli benefits from being in close proximity to the stunning Lake Maggiore – this huge lake is the second largest in the country and spans the borders of the Piedmont and Lombardy regions.
Arona is a delightful town located on the shores of Lake Maggiore and can be reached from Vercelli in under an hour.
Arona benefits from a fantastic location on the lake and from here you can take boat trips to other towns such as Angera and Belgirate.
Furthermore, Arona has some beautiful sites of its own including the giant Sancarlone statue, La Rocca park, and the lakeside Piazza del Popolo.
12. Enjoy a fantastic meal at the La Locanda delle Due Suocere restaurant
Novara has a series of first-class restaurants and the La Locanda is one such establishment.
This eatery can be found on the Corso Trieste which is to the west of the historic town centre.
La Locanda features a cosy environment and the staff will make you feel welcome – they may even offer their advice as to which dish you should try.
In terms of culinary delights, La Locanda offers some traditional Italian starters and mains such as a selection of cold cured meats, lasagne, tortellini and carbonara.
Each dish is homemade and the taste and quality is first-rate.
Furthermore, you can choose from a selection of fine wines to accompany your meal.
13. Have a drink or two at the lively Clover Irish Pub
Novara doesn’t have an immense selection of nightlife locations, but the Clover Irish Pub is one of the most well-known establishments in the city.
You can find this fun and lively bar on Via Giulio Biglieri which is next to the Parco dei Bambini.
Don’t let the unassuming and plain exterior put you off – once inside the bar you will find an inviting setting with some fantastic irish themed decorations – you will feel as if you have walked into an old pub! At the Clover you can find a wide selection of ales, lagers and beers plus a variety of spirits.
Furthermore, the bar actually serves some light meals such as burgers and pizza.
The atmosphere is cosy and lively, and this is a great place to spend an evening.
14. Try a beautiful pasta dish at the Civico 27 restaurant
Located in the historic old town, only a short distance from the train station, the Civico 27 restaurant is a great place to try some delicious Italian pasta.
Consider booking in advance as tables fill up fast due to the restaurants popularity! Civico 27 has a charming décor and the staff are attentive.
The menu includes some gorgeous pasta dishes, plus a wide selection of meats including the Fassona breed of bovine.
Additionally, you can choose from some absolutely stunning deserts that are all packed full of flavor and presented fantastically.
Civico 27 really does provide a fantastic evening of culinary delights and will leave a lasting impression.
15. Visit the town of Galliate
Only a stone’s throw from Novara, the small town of Galliate is a pleasant and charming place to visit.
You can reach this town in under 15 minutes on the train (which leaves from Novara every hour), or 20 minutes via car.
This small town has several hugely interesting historical sites including the Castello Sfozesco and the Chiesa San Pietro e Paolo.
Furthermore Galliate has several prominent streets and Piazzas that are great for shopping including the Via Dante Alighieri and the Piazza Vittorio Veneto.