If you are walking on the Piedmontese shore of Lake Maggiore and have a half-day of fun there, take the car and enter the Val d'Ossola, which extends further north along the Toce river. About half an hour after the motorway exit for Stresa, in the direction of the Simplon Pass, you will come across an ancient village, hidden on the slopes of the mountains, almost invisible if you do not throw your eye on the eastern alpine slope from the window. This is Vogogna, which was once the capital of the Lower Ossola and today draws the curiosity of tourists from all over Piedmont and neighboring Switzerland. We fell in love with this tiny mountain village, where a peace of other times reigns supreme.
Vogogna, included in the Val Grande National Park of which it is the official body, welcomes us with its sober hospitality in the silence of the old cobbled streets that lead to the Visconteo Castle, on the top of the fortress. There are two ways to reach it: climbing on the comfortable funicular, on which it is possible to admire the Val d'Ossolla which expands under its feet, or along the narrow sloping streets, punctuated by steep steps. Not being aware of the first option, we walked and, on the way back, took the cable car, enjoying the all-round view.
Built in the mid-1300s at the behest of Giovanni Visconti, bishop of Novara, Castello Visconteo has belonged to the municipality since 1798 and, after a few years of restoration, was reopened to the public in 1998. The ancient interior rooms, in their simplicity typical of medieval furnishings, they are very well preserved. A figurative itinerary, arranged on the three floors of the fortress, accompanies the visitor telling the story, the uses and the customs of the Ossolan soldiers in the 15th century, with particular attention to the weapons, armor and all the war equipment with which the army defended the inhabitants of Vogogna since the invasion of the Swiss.
In 1700 the town was conquered first by the Austrians and then by the Savoys, losing the administrative leadership of the Lower Ossola and becoming a simple municipality. The highest point of the fortress is the semicircular tower, where you can see the entire valley, the peaks of the western slope and the stone roofs of the village below. The other square tower houses cultural conferences organized by the Multimedia Center. Many entertainment events are held at the castle, including the Harry Potter school of magic, a much-loved appointment with children.
The village of Vogogna also deserves a pleasant "slow" visit. In the heart of the town stands the Palazzo Pretorio, the seat of the Lower Ossola government until the beginning of 1819. Walking through the Via De Regibus, the main artery of the town, we are fascinated by the eighteenth-eighteenth-century houses that make up the San Carlo district. from the wide arches of the arcades, supported by wooden beams. Our walk ends from where we started, or from Piazza della Chiesa, where the parish church dedicated to the Sacred Heart stands, in neo-Gothic style. The bell tower with clock stands out in the sky with the mountains in the background, while the elegant staircase and a beautiful fountain invite us to enter for a prayer. Dark marble prevails inside. The vaults, on the other hand, are characterized by frescoes in lively tones.
If you stop for lunch or dinner, the culinary specialties of Vogogna are the Piedmontese agnolotti, with a stew-based filling and, as a second, if you like peasant dishes, the chicken cacciatore, made even more tasty by onion, vegetables and, of course, accompanied by a good glass of red wine.
As we said at the beginning of the article, Vogogna, in the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, is located in the center of Val d'Ossola, the valley that develops north of Lake Maggiore and borders Switzerland. The best way to get there is by car. For those coming from Milan, following the Autostrada dei Laghi (A8) and then the A26 towards Gravellone Toce, you must continue along the SS33 del Sempione and exit at Vogogna. For those who are by train, the nearest railway station is Domodossola, 14 kilometers from Vogogna.