Dwight Peck's personal website

Northwestern Italy in the autumn

A sixteen days' exploration in northern Italy, 18 October - 2 November 2018

You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.

'Antiques market' in Mondovì, and the Santuario di Vicoforte

28-29 and 30 October 2018

It's a rainy 28 October, suitable for a funiculaire journey from the Piazza upper town to Mondovì's Breo lower town for the Sunday 'antiques market'.

Our carriage approaches

All aboard (in fact, we'll be leaving on the next ten-minute cycle)

The sodden Church of Saints Peter and Paul

What on earth?

Mondovì is gearing up for its festive four-day 21st Regional Festival of the Truffles, commencing a few days hence.

Plenty of shopping bags for our purchases if any

In the 300m-long Piazza Ellero, this is the antiques market in the covered market, which is labeled Il Mercato Contadini, the Farmers' Market, which is evidently a regular on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

But this is a Sunday 'antiques market' -- 'antiques market' might not be the best term for this happy and friendly event; it's more like what we would call brocante, or flea market, or second-hand sale. Or junk.

There is a nice lady working her way along the tables, chatting merrily with the stall merchants and collecting their market fees, with two uniformed policemen following just behind her. Just in case.

Not everyone can fit into the covered market. The others must make their own arrangements.

The cute river Ellero

We seem not actually to be buying anything today. Back we go uptown.

Peter and Paul in the drizzle

That's disgusting.

For some reason, we're not enthusiastic about further adventures on such a dreary day.

Up the hill we go. We can pick out our Airbnb flat in the vintage photo.

The Piazza piazza

Dinner in the Pizzeria La Piemontese -- this maker of non-stop rapid-fire excellent pizzas stays extremely focused on his tasks with his earphones on. The manager, who's his son, says that his dad is listening to a Sicilian football match.

Another rainy day in the Piemonte, 29 October 2018

We're headed for the mall today, the Mondovicino Outlet Village just 4km north of town, near the autostrada.

We've brought some empty bags for stocking up still again on Italian groceries, but especially, and urgently, on cat food.

A colorful, welcoming sort of place

With lots of Multi&Media, featuring the Wonderbox

Melvin will be so pleased by this wide selection of cat food products.

A pleasant afternoon with our books, and now it's time for dinner again. Oh joy oh bliss.

We're back to the Cantina Bonaparte tonight.

The Santuario di Vicoforte, 30 October

We've become annoyed by all of this bad weather, so despite the intermittent rain and bad prognostications, we're off into the Ligurian mountains with a short list of Things To See. First, the Santuario della Natività di Maria in Vicoforte, just 5 or 6km south of Mondovì. That's it there.

Here's an imposing sight. The Sanctuary of Vicoforte, also called the Santuario Regina Montis Regalis, is an enormous monumental church in the small town of Vicoforte in the Mondovì countryside. Its construction took place over a very long time.

The evolution of the place is based on an interesting story, the prosaic truth of which need not concern us. In the Middle Ages a local brickmaker, wishing to thank the Virgin for causing his bricks to turn out well, built a small sanctuary in her honor, sporting a 15th century fresco of the Madonna and Child. In 1592, however, a hunting party was passing by and one of the hunters (Giulio Sargiano) accidentially shot the Madonna fresco with his arquebus and, to his dismay, the Madonna was bleeding.

Word spread quickly and the place became a place of pilgrimage -- the then-Duke of Savoy Charles Emmanuel I, called 'the Great' and 'Testa d'feu' (Fire Head), got into the act in 1596, commissioning a large sanctuary worthy of such a miracle, but his court architect in Torino, Ascanio Vitozzi, died in 1615, and the Duke himself in 1630, and the project halted completely.

This is said to be the world's largest elliptical dome (37m long by 25m across, 74m high), created by the outstanding Monregalese architect Francesco Gallo -- interest in the sanctuary had renewed in 1682 in gratitude for the apparent early success of the Mondovì salt tax rebellions against the Savoyard authorities, and by 1728 Gallo took over the existing project, supposedly with encouragement from Filippo Juvarra, who was working around Torino at the time. Gallo began the cupola drum in 1728 and completed the dome in 1732 -- there is a story that the workmen refused to help him to remove the scaffolding, as they were convinced that the dome would collapse, and Gallo had to do the job himself.

In 1596 Carlo Emanuele I had originally planned this church to become the mausoleum for the Savoy family, but after 1731 Juvarra's Basilica of Superga overlooking Torino had taken over that role.

Another view of the dome; the frescoes date from the 1740s.

That's evidently the tomb of Duke Carlo Emanuele I, made in 1792.

A room for royals

This is the tomb of the tiny ex-King Victor Emmanuel III, who succeeded to the crown in 1900 and abdicated in 1946 when Italy voted to replace the monarchy with a republic. He died in exile in Alexandria, Egypt, in 1947 and was buried there, but was transferred to this tomb in December 2017.

And this is his wife, Queen Elena of Montenegro, who outlived her husband and died in Montpelier, France, in 1952, and was moved here in 2017, two days before her husband's arrival alongside.

Another view of the centrepiece

A sacred heart, or possibly an enormous clove of garlic

That's evidently a tomb and statue by Giuseppe Gaggini of Margherita di Savoia, daughter of Duke Victor Amadeus II, completed in 1714. But she's not in it.

Supposedly Mr Sargiano's original arquebus is preserved somewhere here, along with the Madonna fresco with the bullet hole in it, but we missed it in all the excitement.

Another view

And another. That's enough for today.

Here's Duke Carlo Emanuele I himself gazing upon his sanctuary with approval. The façades and belltowers had not settled down into their present form until the 1880s, and the statue of Charles Emmanuel was installed at the same time.

A semi-circular ring of shops, restaurants, hotels, etc., encloses the piazza in front of the Sanctuary.

'Monumental' is the correct word for it, after all.

Looming symmetries that can't fail to look solidly reassuring, or something.

Now it's time to move on -- next, we've got a nice trip over the mountain roads see some more of the Good Stuff.

Up into the Ligurian Alps over the Colle San Bernardo, past Garessio and down to Castelvecchio and, eventually, Zuccarello.

Feedback and suggestions are welcome if positive, resented if negative, . All rights reserved, all wrongs avenged. Posted 21 December 2018.

Bobbio and
October 2018