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guida ufficiale della Provincia di Pavia

Towards the Upper Oltrepò

As you leave the plains behind you the land rises sharply in rolling hills as far as the mountains and then on to the sea. The Alto Oltrepò area is, in fact, a small area which is accessed at the end of the Staffora valley which the Ardivestra and Nizza valleys join.
The landscape is hilly and dotted with attractive medieval villages, castles, fortresses and patrician residences but its natural environment also invites you to walk through its forests.

There are many farm holiday hotels, trattorias and restaurants which seem not to want travellers to leave.
A journey through the Alto Oltrepò is, in fact, a journey through the gourmet flavours of a fertile rural countryside: agnolotti alla vogherese, ravioli alla varzese, spinach beet malfatti, chicken liver risotto, peperonate, boiled meats and mostarda, braised beef, charcuterie (Varzi salame, bacon, coppa, cotechino, sanguinacci), mushrooms, truffles, bread, fruit, honey, hard almond cakes, 'ossa dei morti', doll shaped biscuits (Büsélâ) and - obviously - wine.

Here, as Cesare Angelini wrote, the air is suffused with the sweetness of grapes and must.

Note that two of the area's towns are part of the Borghi più Belli d'Italia - most beautiful towns in Italy - club: Zavattarello and Porana (part of Pizzale), the latter is outside this itinerary and a few kilometres from Voghera on the Voghera-Pavia road.

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Voghera

Voghera is located at the end of the plains, right at the foot of the hills and in the Roman era it was on the border between the Augustan regions of Emila and Liguria. The river which passes through it, the Staffora river, also takes its name from the Lombard word Stafula for the border posts which marked the borders between the dioceses of Piacenza and Tortona.

Retorbido

Known in Roman times by the name Litibium, the town of Retorbido was given by Lombard king Liutprand to Pavia monastery San Pietro in Ciel d'Oro.

Rivanazzano Terme

A few kilometres away from Voghera near the Staffora stream, you come across the town of Rivanazzano Terme. The site is known as a well equipped spa town.

Godiasco Salice Terme

This famous holiday resort has no fewer than two spa bath complexes: Terme di Salice and Terme President. Salice's waters come from deep down in the earth, in subterranean basins of marine origin and sulphurous springs.

Cecima

The G Giacomotti Astronomic Observatory in Ca’ del Monte, is the site of interesting research (in partnership with both national and foreign bodies), education and general public activities via guided tours, conferences and cultural events.

Ponte Nizza

Abbazia di Sant’Alberto da Butrio, near Ponte Nizza, was founded by hermit saint Alberto of Butrio in the 11th century on the summit of a limestone outcrop and soon became a Benedictine closed order.

Bagnaria

Perched in a panoramic position on the right side of the valley Bagnaria has retained the appearance of a medieval town with houses in grey stone and narrow, winding alleyways which climb steeply to the sacristy of the Romanesque church of San Bartolomeo.

Varzi

Time seems to have stood still in this extremely old medieval plan town: its towers, churches, porticoes, castle, Soprana and Sottana bridges and two seventeenth century oratories belonging to the Bianchi and Rossi confraternities are incomparably beautiful.

Santa Margherita Di Staffora

There are many small villages scattered across the area in diverse environments with interesting natural features and a rich variety of fauna.

Brallo Di Pregola

Brallo di Pregola is in the heart of the Apennines on the border between the provinces of Piacenza, Genoa and Alessandria and it is precisely for this reason that the area can be called the 'land of four provinces', a place in which different traditions, cultures and dialects meet.

Menconico

At the foot of Mt. Penice, this ancient possession of the Abbazia di San Colombano di Bobbio passed to the Malaspina family in the Middle Ages and then to the Dukes of Milan. As well as the eighteenth century parish church dedicated to St. George, Santuario della Beata Vergine, built on the summit of Mt. Penice at an altitude of 1460 metres with very long views, also merits a visit.

Romagnese

Romagnese is a characteristic medieval town. The Dal Verme family ruled the area and built its fourteenth century castle.

Zavattarello

Zavattarello is one of Pavia's most beautiful towns and part of the Borghi più Belli d’Italia - the most beautiful towns in Italy - club.

Valverde

In the midst of upper Val di Nizza and upper Val Tidone this site is still wild and uncontaminated with a typically mountainous climate.

Val Di Nizza

The town of Oramala in the Val di Nizza area is one of the most evocative places in the upper Oltrepò valley.

Montesegale

The town's fourteenth century castle - built on an earlier, 12th century fortress - overhangs the town. It is a severe complex of courtyards and buildings which were built up layer by layer over the centuries and encircled by battlemented towers with massive square towers.