San Nazzaro Sesia: the ancient Abbey of Saints Nazario and Celso

(25 min. by car from Novara, 45 from Orta)

The tranquil village of San Nazzaro Sesia lies amongst the chequered sea of rice fields on the road between Novara and Vercelli.

At the beginning of the 11th century a great Benedictine abbey was founded by a powerful local family: here hoards of followers received hospitality as they made their pilgrimage.

Fortified in the 13th century but subsequently ransacked and damaged, the abbey rose again during a golden period beginning in 1426 thanks to the noble abbot Barbavara.

Today we can still visit the surviving parts of the ancient abbey, in particular its fortified walls, the 15th-century church with its gorgeous decorated brick fa├žade and well preserved gothic interior, but above all the cloister which still houses a magnificent series of frescoes depicting the life of saint Benedict of Norcia, founder of the Benedictine order.
Above all, rises the dominant bell tower, 35 metres high and dating back to the end of the 11th century.
Just 5 kilometres away is the interesting Etnographic Museum of Casalbeltrame illustrating the daily life of local country people in the 19th century.