Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Real Italy: Verbania (Intra, Pallanza)

Verbania is the major industrial and commercial centre of the Lake Maggiore, formed in 1939 by the union of Intra and Pallanza. In a beautiful panoramic setting, with its villas, parks and gardens Pallanza is an important holiday resort. Intra is the major commercial port of the lake.

Distance from NOVARA, nearest big city: about 45 km
Altitude: 197 meters above sea level
Nearest airport: MILANO and TORINO
Train connections: easily accessible from MILANO, NOVARA and TORINO
Zip code: 28048 VB
Telephone: dial +39.323 before the number you want to call

Intra and Pallanza

Verbania is a well-known tourist resort on Lake Maggiore. The town became a “commune” in 1939, thus uniting the two towns of Pallanza and Intra. The name Verbania comes from the Latin “Verbanus”, the ancient name of Lake Maggiore. Pallanza dates back to Roman times, while Intra was founded at a later date: the earliest news about it can be dated to the X century. Pallanza belonged to the Counts of Castello, while Intra to the Counts of Biandrate. In the XIII century both towns were under the control of Novara and in the XIV of the Visconti family. All the area around was ruled by the Spaniards from 1535 to 1743, then it was possessed by the Savoia family, with the exception of Intra, which remained in the hands of the Borromeo family.


PALLANZA is such a nice tourist resort that you will be fascinated by its wonderful views, its villas with their gardens and the promenade along the lake shore. The first inhabited centre was located around the Romanesque “BASILICA DI SANTO STEFANO”, which was erected on a pre-existing pagan temple. A votive tablet of the I century A.D. has been found under the bell-tower. The church was repaired in 1601 and underwent radical restoration in 1850 when it was completely decorated with stucco. The most important evidence of its medieval origins are the remains of the ancient Cloister of the Augustians and the nerby “Casa de’ Latti” , which you can see in Via Cietti, where some late Gothic frescoes are still visible.

As it has already been mentioned, wonderful villas can be seen in Pallanza, and one of these, VILLA DUGNANI, built in the XV century and later altered, has been housing the “Museo storico artistico e del paesaggio” since 1914. Under the porch there is the Roman Epigraphic Museum and the Gallery of the Plaster Casts by Paolo Troubetskoy, the famuos sculptor born in Intra (1866-1938) to an American mother and a Russian father. The paintings of the XVI-XVII centuries are shown on the first floor, where you can also see some paintings by Maratta, of the school of Caravaggio, Grechetto, a drawing by Gaudenzio Ferrari and works of the XVIII century, mainly landascapes and portraits. Also some paintings of the XIV century coming from the destroyed Church of San Rocco are exhibited here.

Off the central square of the townhall, built in the XIX century, is the CHURCH OF SAN LEONARDO. The church you see now was rebuilt in 1535 and rearranged in 1801 and 1845. The inside has a Renaissance shape with decorations dating back to the following centuries. The wooden choir is also remarkable. The bell-tower, started in 1520, was finished according to a drawing by Pellegrino Tibaldi.

Not far from the town you can see the Romanesque church dedicated to SAN REMIGIO. It was founded in 1100 and took up in the XVI century. It was a parish church until 1314. Unfortunately, it is in very bad condition. It is made of a nave with an apse and a small aisle on the south side. In the church there are also frescoes of some importance. In particular, there are some XIII century frescoes in the main apse and some XV century frescoes are visible in the minor apse.

At the end of Viale Antonio Azari, just outside PALLANZA, you cannot miss the CHURCH OF “MADONNA DI CAMPAGNA”. Its erection started in the XI century and it was renewed between 1519 and 1527, probably following an idea of Giovanni Beretta from Brissago. Today only the bell-tower and the painting, of the “Madonna delle Grazie” altered in the XV century, belong to the original building. The church has three aisles, divided by stone columns and covered by cross-vaults, and a semicircular apse richly decorated. Also the presbitery and the two aisles are highly decorated in Baroque style. The dome is supported by an octagonal base, featuring an external gallery with balusters and small pillars. The fa硤e is made of stone with a central Renaissance portal (1527), surmounted by a rose-window and two side windows. Inside you can also admire some paintings telling the story of Mary and some frescoes by Gerolamo Lanino dating back to the end of the XVI century. The frescoes of the dome and the presbitery were made by an unknown Lombard painter at the end of the XVI or the beginning of the XVII century.


Intra is an important industrial, commercial and tourist centre. There is a beautiful promenade with gardens on one side of the street, and hotels, bars and shops on the other side. Here traffic and life are busier than in the peaceful Pallanza, especially on Saturdays, when a very lively market takes place. There is a ferry service from Intra to Laveno.

If you leave the Garden of Villa Taranto and follow the road along the lake you get to INTRA. It is the richest industrial and commercial town of the area. Here there is an ancient tradition of textile industry. During the XVII and XVIII century the industrial development was great and so the old urban shape changed considerably. For example, a lot of rich houses where built in Baroque style, expecially on the streets which go from the lake shore to the parish church. It is worth seeing the De Lorenzo Mansion, in via De Bonis, with its tasteful Baroque decoration. And the Peretti mansion, which stands just outside the town centre. It was built in the XVIII century and it is now in a serious state of disrepair.

The ancient BASILICA OF SAN VITTORE took its grand neo-classical shape after it was rebuilt between 1708 and 1752. It was completely reconstructed and its original orientation was changed. The facade was made in 1830 as planned by Abbot Zanoia. Inside you can see the “Battesimo di Ges?8;, a fresco by Ranzoni, a “Madonna” painted in the XVI century and the “Madonna col Bambino”, a wooden statue of the XV century. All the internal furniture dates back to the XVIII century, and so does the beautiful and well preserved vestry.

Near the parish church, going down towards the lake, there is the CHURCH OF SANTA MARTA. Now in disrepair, it was partially restored in 1593 in the wave of the Counter-Reformation, which Carlo Borromeo supported.


On the coast between INTRA and PALLANZA, you have to see the GARDEN OF VILLA TARANTO, one of the most enchanting gardens in Europe. This botanical garden, of about 16 hectares, was created in 1931 by Captain Neil McEacharn, whose Mausoleum can be visited in the garden itself. He imported flowers and trees from all over the world and planted them here creating a wonderful scenery and beautiful views of the lake. The foreshortenings are perfectly studied and in each season you can admire different kinds of flowers. For example, in April you can see the mimosas and the 80.000 tulips in flower. In May the magnolias, in August the hortensias and 300 different kinds of dahlias besides many others. Every tree or flower has a label showing both its botanic name and its every-day name. There are also fountains with water-plants and greenhouses full of tropical plants. Captain McEacharn donated the villa and its garden to the Italian State. The villa, which is not open to the public, belongs to the Prime Minister and is used for important international meetings.

The garden is open from 1st April till 31st October from 8.30 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., so don't hesitate to buy a ticket and spend some time in an atmosphere of complete relaxation in this heavenly garden. You can also buy one of the plants which are grown here, before you leave the place.


From INTRA you can start many beautiful walks and drives in the mountains (B襬 Premeno, Pian del Sole, Pian Cavallo) from which the panorama, especially over the lake, is really wonderful.

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