Interactive tourist map of the town centre of Prato Sesia

Interactive tourist map of Prato Sesia

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Due to its position, Prato Sesia does not belong to one single geographical
landscape. It is situated at the beginning of the Valsesia valley, and yet it
does not have a mountainous character; it is located at the periphery of the
Novarese, but it is not flat. Instead, here and there, the scenery is dotted by
lovely hills, made rich by the precious grapes that characterize the so-called
"sweet land between two rivers."
The unusual geology and rich history of the area, in contrast to the usual crowded tourist resorts, makes it an excellent choice of location to spend a quiet holiday.
In the prehistoric age (Pliocene from 5 to 2 million years ago) the area where Prato lies, as the whole Padana plain, was a warm subtropical sea with a rugged, steep coastline with several side bays. As an evidence, a lot of fossils dating back to 3.5 million years ago have been found in the area Vaglio, in Monte Fenera Wildlife Reserve; they are one of the most interesting findings in the piedmont region. Later on the land was inhabited by the Romans, amphorae and coins were found in the area S.Grato.
The village is first mentioned in a document by Henry II in 1014, where its name is "Karon".
In the 13th century the village was already divided into New and Old Prato with Sopramonte castle in between; however, for centuries it was a hamlet of Romagnano.
According to some historians, in this very century around 1270, Fra Dolcino was born. He was a very weird heretic, half preacher and half outlaw; at the head of the Apostolic sect he put Valsesia and Valsessera to fire and sword. Finally, after a long siege on Mount Rubello north of Trivero, he was arrested by the troups of the Archbishop of Vercelli and sentenced to death by the Inquisition together with Margherita, his life companion. Nobody else has influenced the imagination of the people in Valsesia as he did; he was even immortalized by Dante in Divina Commedia.
Since the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the 17th century, with its 500-600 inhabitants Prato started gradually to avoid the supremacy of the nearby village that was based especially on the control of wheat mills, one of the main resources of the age. The community managed to be ruled by two consuls elected among 12 counsellors.
In the 17th and 18th century several charities were founded by well-off villagers such as Carlo Placido, Bartolomeo Furogotti and the clergyman Carlo Maria Genesi.
In 1792 Giacomo Antonini was born at Prato. Son of a notary from Varallo, he was a heroic and adventurous serviceman who shot to the top of the military rank in Napoleone's army and deserved the French Legion of Honour. After the French defeat he went to Poland where he fought as a general for the liberation of the country from the Russian domination. In 1848 he came back to Italy to stand up for Vicenza against the Austrians. He died in 1854.
In 1862 Prato added "Sesia" to its name.
In the 20th century the village has gradually changed from an agricultural hamlet to an industrial centre, although it underwent the long break of World War II when it was theatre of the Resistance fighting of the Partisans against the Nazi-Fascists.


2nd route

1st route: historical center and the Sopramonte hill.
Here's some advice for the traveller which has decided to stop in our quiet town. Leave your car in the Piazza Europa car park. It's the one characterised by a small plaque, mounted on a concrete support, with carved onto it the directions and distances to various european capitals from that point. Opposite is located the church of S. Bernardo. Constructed in the romanesque style in the 14th century, it was later adapted to baroque architectural ideals between the 17th and the 18th century. Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine
Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine

Entering, you will notice there is a principal nave, flanked by two aisles, with six marble altars in the baroque style, the most prominent being the altar of S. Giuseppe, located to the right of the main altar. The altar-piece features the Birth of Jesus Christ, as depicted by the Pietro Renolfi, painted between 1590 and 1632 a.d.

To the right is the gem of this church, the "cappella del Rosario". Above the altar there is a painting by Giacinto Giminiani, produced around 1648 a.d., which shows the Virgin Mary presenting a rosary to S. Domenico. Looking up, one will see a fresco depicting the assumption of the Virgin Mary, painted in 1718 by Tarquinio Grassi.

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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine
Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine

Continuing towards the exit, one will come across the "cappella del crocifisso", erected in 1872 to house a crucifix. The crucifix had, in 1760, fallen from the Sopramonte Hill, but was later recovered, miraculously intact, but covered in sweat. 
On the ceiling are carved prized stuccoes, dating back to the 18th century.
Externally, there is the "cappella di S. Marta", where recent restauration have revealed frescos dating back to the end of the 16th century, depicting the stigmata of S. Francesco and, in the lunettes, the twelve apostles.

Walking to the end of via de Amicis, one will reach the "Oratorio della Beata Vergine della Quercia", dating back to 1646. 

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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine

Inside there is a painting depicting the appearance of the Virgin Mary on an Oak tree. Also in the painting are S. Giovanni Battista, S. Michele Arcangelo, and the man that comissioned the painting, Giovanni Viocca. The painting is by the aforementioned Giminiani.

Continuing along via Garibaldi, one will pass through the heart of Prato Sesia, the "rione di Prato Vecchio", characterised by the narrow street which opens onto typical large courtyards.

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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine At the end one can continue along what is known as the "Rocchetta street", which, under the Sopramonte's hill, brings one to the other historical center of the town, "Prato Nuovo".
Branching off the main road is a pebbled path, passing underneath a stone arc, which delimits the boundary between Prato Vecchio and Prato Nuovo. This path leads to the "summit" of the hill.

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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine Here we discover the ruins of a 14th century castle,
and a small church, dedicated to the birth of the Virgin Mary. Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine
Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine In the vicinity of the castle there is a tower dating between the 11th and the 12th century, which is the emblem of the town. The proximity of the two structures has led to speculation that they may once have been enclosed by a single, now destroyed fortification, originally enclosing a small village.

Inside the church there is a fresco dating back to the 2nd half of the 15th century depicting S. Sebastiano and, maybe, S. Gaudenzio by Iohannes de Campo.

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Beyond the church there is a small field. From this vantage point, it is possible to see the entire town. On a clear day, it is possible to see the "Monte Fenera". On a very clear day, it is even possible to gasp at the magnificent panoramic view of the Italian Alps.

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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine Descending from the hill towards via Castello, we return to Prato Nuovo.
This is via Fra' Dolcino, named after the infamous heretic, also featured in Dante's "La Divina Commedia". It appears that Fra' Dolcino was born right here, in Prato Sesia.

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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine Branching off on via Molino, one will cross a small stream, and will come to one of the few remaining watermills of the area.
Backtracking, one will come to the "Oratorio della Beata Vergine di Lourdes", opened in 1631 under the name of "Oratorio di S. Carlo". 
Continuing along via Fra' Dolcino, one will return on the main road, which leads back to Piazza Europa.
2nd route: the countryside, the river Sesia, the shrines and the churces in the hamlets.
The second suggested route winds farther than the previous one,it is a perfect cycling route in the countryside but it may also fit a fairly good walker.
From Piazza Europa take via Cimitero where there is the Romanesque S. Sebastiano's Oratory dating back to at least the 15th century, although it was rebuilt throughout in 1730;
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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine
inside there is a 15th century fresco with the Vergin and the Christ child by Tommaso Cagnoli, on the sides there are S. Sebastiano and S. Giulio. At the back of the Oratory there are the remains of a well used for Pagan purificatory rites.
Then go on, cross the rails and take a wide path on the right. After a ten-minute walk you get to "Regione S. Grato" where at the beginning of the 20th century Roman coins and amphorae were found. Along the route the ruins of S. Grato's shrine, destination of many religious processions, can be seen.
Walking not too far from the river Sesia, go through "Ca' Bianca" hamlet, go straight along via Garodino where you come across S. Antonio's shrine, then you get to S. Michele's church that was built in 1619 and owned by Counts Gibellini whose coat of arms can be seen inside. Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine
Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine Turn right, go straight along a path that takes to the tarred road, after some hundreds metres on the left climb up to the Oratory of Beata Vergine della Neve built in 1714 with a fresco inside dating back to the second half of the 16th century, it portrays Madonna with Christ child, S. Nazario and S. Gaudenzio.

and another fresco outside depicting Madonna with Christ child, Beata Panacea and S. Bernardo.

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Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine Go back down to the tarred road, a bit farther take a path on the right, after some hundreds metres, turn left, go straight on to S. Marco's shrine
with some 18th century frescoes, portraying Vergine Assunta, S. Marco and S. Defendente. Clicca per ingrandire l'immagine

Then go on along via Martiri della LibertÓ, at its bottom on the left a cross can be seen that marks the beginning of Gabbio district. Here you get to via Matteotti, go along it and you come back to Piazza Europa.

Download the brochure (in italian)
Download the brochure (in italian)
Download a printable map of the town centre of Prato Sesia
(itinerari 1 e 4)
Download a printable map of Prato Sesia
(itinerari 2 e 3)
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