The Torinese wine zone resides within the larger Canavese area, of which Ivrea has been its epicenter for centuries. Its central importance means a fascinating spread of medieval architecture, certainly a castle—all important Canavese towns have one—and the right to one of Italy’s most famous Carnivals.
Ivrea sits at the edge of the Dora Baltea River, giving it high strategic importance as early as 500 BC when Celts inhabited the area. Ancient stone bridges stretch over sections of the river throughout the territory, and some, like Ivrea’s Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”) built in 100 AD, are still used today.
Cross the Ponte Nuovo (“New Bridge”), stopping halfway across to take a picture of the Ponte Vecchio, and pause at the piazza with the fountain and stone carving on the other side. This sculpture that juts out from an old stone wall once separating the upper and lower city sections in the Medieval Ages portrays Camillo Olivetti. Ivrea is still known as the “Città dell’Informatica” in homage to Sig. Olivetti and the powerful informatics industry that he founded, best known for producing typewriters and computers.
Walk along the river on Via Umberto until the medieval Tower of St. Stefano, the only remains of a Benedictine abbey built in 1044 AD. Turn up Corso Botta to the left, and double back down Via Palestra to cut straight through the heart of medieval Ivrea.
If in town during the period of Carnevale in February and March, then the most striking sight will not be the grand Piazza Ottinetti (where the Tourist Office is found) with white colonnades and the Civic Museum, or even the signs of medieval heritage in the architecture and small alleyways. Draped across the streets and hanging from windows will be banners of Carnevale, representing, at first glance, town parishes. There’s no need to look twice at the aggressive designs to reconsider, though. Mercenari, Pantere Nere, Scorpioni d'Arduino, Aranceri della Morte: Mercenaries, Black Panthers, The Scorpion, Orange Throwers of Death – these are not for the nine parishes that are named mostly after saints! These are the die-hard teams for the Battle of the Oranges, Battaglia delle Arance, one of the most animated and anticipated events during Ivrea’s Carnevale. In fact, those statues positioned throughout the city of a huge hand gripping an oversized orange globe begin to make sense... Oranges decorate shop windows, round pastries are glazed with orange icing, and hand-knit hats and scarves display team colors and names. If staying in Ivrea for Carnevale—or at any other time of the year—the hotel Spazio Bianco, with its chic Moma Cafè, is an excellent choice right in the city center.
Via Palestro is the bustling shopping street of the city. Walking down these cobblestones—with groups of Ivreans chatting, walking dogs, or gathering as spectators around several guys figuring out how to pass up an awkward iron fence to the balcony above—you might get the sensation that this is how roads should be. They are meant to be throughways for people, meeting grounds for a caffè, one big sidewalk. The occasional worker’s van or Carabiniere car that passes are given space grudgingly, room that quickly fills back up.
Don’t miss the artisanal honey producer Apicoltura Canavesana or Enoteca on this road, both of which have the Maestro del Gusto Slow Food recognition for high quality products that represent the territory. Down a small alleyway off the main street, the honey shop holds rows of organic, Canavese gold, from rose hip to wild flower honey, and different honey-based products. The Vino e Dintorni Enoteca, artistically decorated inside with wooden wine crate slats forming tables and decoration, offers great wines from all over Italy and abroad. Stop for a tasting and a plate of local cheese and meats for lunch; or, if in need of heartier fare, La Mugnaia down the street is popular with the locals.
A visit to Ivrea is not complete without a stop at the Duomo and Castle. Across from the City Hall in Piazza Ferruccia Nazionale is Via Cattedrale: follow this aptly named road up to an ancient stone wall. Before taking the cobblestoned steps up, read the small plaque explaining that the curvature of the buildings mimics that which stood in this space millennia ago: an ancient Roman amphitheater, back when Ivrea was known as Epodria in 1 AD (epo for horse and reda for carrier; they were renowned horse-trainers). It held over 10,000 spectators. Ascend the steps and enter the piazza of the Duomo, initially built in the 10th century overtop a 4th century pagan temple (later undergoing several reconstructions). If the front door is not open, the side door always is. The crypt, a remnant of the original 10th century structure, contains several ancient frescoes and has only recently been opened to visitors.
From here, follow signs to the Castle, which was built in 1358 by Count Amadesu VI of Piemonte’s ever-present Savoy family. The castle was constructed for defense and sits high over Ivrea, offering a beautiful view of the city below.
As Olivetti’s statue attests, however, Ivrea is not just a town of the past. The open air Modern Architecture Museum (MaAM—Museo a cielo aperto di Architetture di Ivrea) is a 2-km walk on Via Jervis that leads visitors on a tour to the buildings that are most representative of Olivetti’s legacy. It has seven stopping points that pass by the most important landmarks of his industry.
Where to Stop in Ivrea
Torre di Santo Stefano
Corso Re Umberto, 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 0125.424340
Via Palestro, 10015 Ivrea (TO)
B&B Spazio Bianco
Via dei Patrioti, 17, 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 0125 425857
Piazza Ottinetti, 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 0125 410311
Via Corte D'Assise, 21, 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 349 473 8027
Enoteca Vino e Dintorni
Via Arduino, 126, 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 0125 641223
Via Arduino, 53 - 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 0125 40530
Duomo di Ivrea
Piazza Castello, 16 - 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 0125 40109
Piazza Castello, 10 - 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Museo dell'Architettura Moderna di Ivrea
2-km course along Via Jervis
To know more, contact the Assessorato alla Cultura
Via Piave, 10 - 10015 Ivrea (TO)
Tel. +39 0125 410311 - 313