For a change of pace, today we headed north to the small city of Vercelli, as I'd heard it had an interesting old centro. Vercelli is in the rice producing region, and as we got closer the landscape turned flat, with rice fields stretching off from the road. We maneuvered through the outskirts, and found parking off viale Garibaldi, a street with a tree-shaded pedestrian strip down the middle. We walked over to the Basilica di St. Andrea, a lovely church with elements of Romanesque and Gothic.
As we were slowly walking around, we were greeted by a priest who had been quietly sitting in a pew. He began pointing out parts of the interior, and before we knew it he was unlocking doors, telling us the history of the building, of Vercelli, and the amazing wood carvings, inlaid marble, paintings,and rooms in the Basilica. He had no English, but Larry was pretty much able to keep up with most of the Italian and French. This was such a treat, to be shown around by someone with so much passion and warmth.
From the Basilica, we walked over to the 16th century Cathedral. There was a funeral taking place inside, so we didn't go in. We continued our walk further into the centro, where we found a lively market taking place. This part of Vercelli is quite old, with some interesting and quite elgant architecture. There are a few small museums in the city, but we were happy to just sit with a coffee. We spent some time relaxing, watching Vercelli go about its business.
For lunch, we took a chance on Ristorante Vecchia Brenta, on via Morsone. An old-fashioned looking place decorated in pink and green.The other diners ranged from large family groups to business people to little old ladies. Amusingly, donkey was on the menu several times. We began with a plate of mixed salumi, which included a few very dark, rich slices of salami that may have been from one of those little guys. We then had an excellent vegetable risotto for two, with artichoke and asparagus. This, plus two glasses of good wine, and coffee, was 42 euros.
Back "home" we spent some time beginning to pack up and then just lazed around with some wine and books. Threw together sauteed zucchini, tomatoes and pasta for dinner from the little market under the porticos in Cocconato.