VARZI VIVA Cultural Association
What to do at Varzi

Capuchin Friars’ romanesque church
Sec. XII-XIII Nazional monument
(© Antonio Di Tomaso)

If you are not going to Varzi just for a specific happening, here is a list of things you can do in and around town:

Visit of the old town centre. Walk around the medieval heart of the town. We suggest an itinerary (approximately one hour on foot) which will let you enjoy the main monuments and discover the atmosphere of old Varzi: start from Piazza del Municipio (Castle and Witches' Tower; Malaspina of Pregola Palace, formerly Tamburelli House, dating back to 1724, now the Town Hall) and walk along a short extent of  via Lombardia, then turn left into vicolo del Moro which ends by the powerful and well preserved Lower Gate Tower, characterized by an elegant pointed stone arch. Walk under the Tower, up via di Dentro: immediately to the left a the medieval Guard building, to the right, Leveratto-Mangini Palace (late 18th century), then, past some characteristic porches, the baroque Holy Trinity Oratory, or the Reds' Oratory, so called from the colours worn by the religious brotherhood based in it and marked by a slender bell tower painted with red squares. Inside (open only on occasion of religious cerimonies) multicoloured marble high altar and balaustrade in the baroque style, 1700's wooden and painted statue of the Angel, unfortunatly deprived of ist Tobiolus by burglary, canvases of the baroque age, besides a peculiar one showing the martyrdom of the Blessed Panacea. Walking further along via di Dentro, you can see, to the left, St. Mary of the Gonfalon, or the Whites' Oratory, with a low bell tower, drum topped by a lantern and quadrifoiled plan, always dating back to the 17th century, recently restored. You then get to the Upper Gate Tower topped by the town clock and, past it, to the parish church dedicated to St. Germanus bishop with a neoclassical frescoed façade. Inside, side altars with coat-of-arms of the Marquises Malaspina and noteworthy wooden choir stalls (ca. 1700) On the first side altar to the right, precious relic holder containing a chip from St. George's forearm. In the sacristy, skeleton of an arm, which, according to a legend, was chopped off a burglar who had tried to take away the relic, getting stuck to it. From the little square (largo Paolo Savini) in front of the parish church, take the street to the left, via Porta Nuova, sided by two series of porches. Halfway left, Giacobone House (ca. 1700). Via Roma is also flanked by porches, then, turn righ, to via del Mercato (Market Street), with porches and old shops on either side. Uphill (via della Piazzola), one goes back to the Parish Church square. Halfway up, to the right, a pictoresque stepped alley behind the parish church apse; if you take it and then turn immediately to the right, you get into the most articulated stretch of porches in town (via dietro le Mura); looking down through the openings, you can see pictoresque via della Maiolica. At the end, walk across via Roma up via della Scaletta, with steps, but turn left into another typical alley (via del Voltone), ending into pictoresque dimly lit porches and then follow the alley out of them. Away from the old town centre, the ancient Capuchin Friars' Church (a "National Monument" dating back to the XII-XIII century) deserves a visit. It was restored back to its original severe romanesque lines from later baroque decorations and additions. The double sloped front is built, in the lower part, in alternate dark and light grey sandstone layers; the upper part is made of bricks, with the typical motif of interlaced cotto arches running along the roofline. A porched portal with sandstone columns and other sculptured decorations and a baroque fresco on top leads into the church. Inside, once again masonry partly in stone and partly in brick; massive, bare columns and pilasters and a fresco fragment, showing the Virgin, attributed to A. da Baxilio (1480).

Call in at shops selling typical local products (salami, almond cake, honey, mushrooms, etc...).

The following sports can be practised at Varzi: tennis (two communal courts), swimming (communal swimming pool), soccer (communal football ground), horse riding and trekking. Varzi is also an ideal starting point for cycling, but remember it is quite hilly here and particularly suitable for mountain biking.

We also suggest some simple walks: many easy tracks and paths lead away from town. Some itineraries: along the stream Reponte Superiore, following via Luigi Mazza; and along the stream Reponte Inferiore, following via Oramala past the bridge over the Staffora, to the left, along the river.

In intermediate warm and wet seasons (Spring and Autumn) the chestnut tree woods surrounding the town make up an ideal habitat for the growth of the much sought after cêpe mushrooms. But be careful: mushroom picking is regulated, beware of poisonous mushrooms and do not litter or damage the environment! In Autumn those who are not lucky enough to find edible mushrooms can resort to chestnuts.

If you have escaped a hot city, but want to get a good tan, you can sunbathe not only in the communal swimming pool, but also in the bed of the river Staffora (May-August), as the local youths of once used to do: a cool breeze is assured, as well as fresh, clean, running waters (just knee-deep), scent of mint, chirping of birds and cicadas, and, if need be, the protective shade of willow bushes. Annoying bugs, such as mosquitos, are virtually unknown here. We suggest you get into the river bed at Carro or Bosmenso (Brallo di Pregola direction). Bring along deckchairs, sandals (the river bed is pebbly) and — if you need it — sunshield protection. Please respect the environment and do not litter.

A picnic lunch in close contact with nature, providing you respect it and do not litter, is regenerating. The Varzi people of once used to make for the springs in the surrounding country. Their water, nowadays, may not be fit for drinking, but, after all, soft drinks, thermal bags and bottles become the modern taste, as well as a bottle of the DOC Oltrepò Pavese wine. Woods and meadows are still there. Spectacular views can be enjoyed if you stop and have your picnic lunch along the roads leading to Castellaro or Oramala.

If nothing of this appeals to you, linger in piazza della Fiera, which once was the setting of the important cattle market and still is the hub of town life, in the shade of trees in the local park or in one of the many coffee bars with alfresco tables and chairs facing the wide open stretch. Especially in the Summer nights you will understand why the Varzi people and those living in the low lying Lombardy plain like to come up here to take the air.

Pietro Marchetti