Thursday, April 30, 2020

Overview of the Folk Costumes of Piemonte, Italy, part 4. Novara and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola

Hello all, 

This will be my last installment of the overview of the Paese of Piemonte. In this article I will cover the provinces of Novara and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola. The people of these provinces speak Lombard rather than Piemontese. Novara was originally part of Lombardy, but was conquered by the Duchy of Savoy in 1706 and has been considered part of Piedmont ever since. These two provinces lie in the east of Piedmont.

This province used to be part of Novara Province, but was separated in 1992 . These three were seperate regions that were combined. Verbano is the region on the west shore of Lago Maggiore, Cusio is the area around Lago d'Orta, and Ossola is the mountain valleys which stretch to the north. 


Valle Strona 
This valley lies in the south of this province, from Campello Monti at its head to its mouth on the shores of Lake Orta. Campello was a Walser colony. They consider their closest neighbors to be the Walser community at Rimella, which lies just over the mountain pass to the south, underscoring the fact that they connected more by mountain passes than by valleys. The costume of the upper valley, worn at least as far down as Forno has some definite similarity to that of Rimella, including puncetto in the chemise and sometimes on the aprons. The amount and type of embroidery on the aprons varies widely.

 Campello Monti


A video about a boutique in Forno teaching women how to make the traditional costume.

Lower Valle Strona

The costume of Fornero and the lower valley is simpler, and has no similarity to that of Rimella.


The twin cities of Upper and Lower Quarna lie west of the Lake. The image at the head of the article is from Quarna Sopra. 

Ossola is a mountain valley that extends northwest from Lago Maggiore. There are several side canyons, each of which has a distinct costume. This valley forms a northern extension of Italy, and is bordered on three sides by Switzerland; Canton Valais to the west, and Canton Ticino to the east.

Toce Valley and Ornavasso

 The main valley of Ossola is that of the Toce River. The town of Ornavasso is located in the lower parts of the valley.

Anzasca Valley

This valley lies in the southwest of Ossola, the eastern part lies north of Val Strona, and the western part lies north of Valsesia, The community at the head of the valley is Macugnaga, another Walser settlement. It lies to the north of Monte Rosa, as Alagna lies south of it. 

An everyday outfit from the upper part of this valley

The Sunday, or half dress outfit.

The festive outfit. This is the most commonly seen, as the more regular attire has been replaced by modern clothing. 


 The following images are from around Bannio, about halfway down the valley.

Antrona Valley

This is the next valley north, and lies parallel to Anzasca. See the map of the province at the head of the article. 
In the upper valley, the old costume had a long apron that hung from over the bust, and a long vest, similar to some of the other valleys in the area, as far away as Ticino. 

The newer costume has the apron at the waist, of different materials, depending on the occasion, and a short jacket with ornament on the front edges. 

This images are from Viganella, in the lower part of the valley.


Bognanco Valley

This is a small valley that lies north of Antrona.


The town of Domodossola lies in the main valley about even with the mouth of Bognanco valley. 

The part of town called Vagna has a tradition of Celebrating the Child Jesus in summer, for the benefit of the many men who travel seasonally for work and are not home in December.

Video of Christmas in Summer festival of Domodossola 

Divedro Valley

This valley lies in a northwest orientation from the central valley. It has retained the older style costume reminiscent of the ones found in Verzaska  and Maggia valleys in Ticino.

Formazza Valley

This valley lies in the very northernmost part of this Province, and is surrounded on three sides by Switzerland. The population at the head of this valley is Walser.  Here are the costumes for Formazza.

Calderini has a plate showing an old style costume from Foppiano. I have found no other record of this costume, and assume that it is no longer worn. 

Between Premio and Domodossola, the name Antigorio is used for the lower valley.


This town lies in the central valley, close to the mouth of Vigezza Valley.


Vigezza Valley

This valley heads to the east from the main valley, reaches a divide, and continues into Ticino in Switzerland, two different rivers flow out of either end of the valley. This is also known as Valle dei Pittori, as many painters in the past settled here, and the costume of this valley features in many of their works. The costumes of the valley show a great variation, depending on social class and occasion. This variety is perhaps better remembered here than in the other valleys because of the existing paintings. 


The town of Santa Maria Maggiore in this valley hosts the world convention of Chimney Sweeps every year.


Verbano includes the land around Lago Maggiore which belongs to this Province.

Cannobina Valley

This is a small valley which flows into Lago Maggiore at the town of Cannobio. 


 Video about Crealla and Val Cannobino

 Intrasca Valley

This is a small valley which lies further south, close to where the Ossola valley meets Lago Maggiore. This costume is especially conserved in the towns of Miazzina and Cossogno.

Lago Maggiore

On the shores of Lago Maggiore in the towns, we find much the same costume as is used in the towns of Locarno and Lugano. This is typical town costume, and the headdress is la raggiera, the collection of hairpins and spoons which I talked about in my article on Brianza and Mendrisiotto. 
This shows that this area is indeed culturally connected to Lombardy.

Cannero Riviera



Province of Novara

This province lies to the south, and contains part of Lago Maggiore. It borders Lombardy on the east. 


This is the region between the two lakes which lie on the border with Verbano-Cusio-Ossola. Here is the local group from the town of Sovazza.

For most of the rest of Novara, I have found little, except these images from the wedding of Prince Umberto in 1930. These are simply labelled Novara. 


This town lies in eastern Novara, near to the border with Lombardy. The costume worn in this town is a version of the typical Lombard costume with the raggiera headdress. I have written a more in depth article of that costume here.

Calderini provides a plate of this costume

 These images are from the local folklore group 'I Manghini e le Manghine'.

Galliate dance group web page with videos of dances

And that conludes my overview of the costumes of the Region of Piemonte. I did not expect to find so much material, I admit. 

Thank you for reading, I hope that you have found this to be interesting and informative. 

Roman K.


Source Material:
Much of this I found online, but here are a couple books as well. 
Emma Calderini, Il Costume Popolare in Italia, Milan, 1953
Gino Massano, 'Grazie e Splendori dei Costumi Italiani', Rome, 1930
Flavia Fiori et al, 'L'abito, Il Lavoro, La Donna', Comignago, 2009
Enrica Morini, 'Il Costume Walser di Macugnaga', Domodossola, 2018