A life of contemplation: Abbey of Santi Nazaro and Celso

It seems like every town and city in the Piemonte region of north west Italy features a magnificent historical building, or two. If, like me, you appreciate classical architecture, incredible gardens and exquisite frescoes this should be on your list of places to visit. This part of Italy is so different from the sunny climes further south and it has a distinctly Gothic atmosphere.

The decorations around this door must have been so colourful originally.

I visited in October when the mists draped themselves across the mountains, and wound through the old towns and along the river Sesia. In the winter the area is renowned for skiing and in the summer for outdoor sports, such as canoeing. But in the autumn the atmosphere is a little mysterious and moody, further emphasised by the Gothic and Renaissance architecture and interiors.

The Benedictine Abbey of Santi Nazaro and Celso at Vercelli was founded in 1040 and entrusted to the Benedictine monks. At that time in England Harthacnut had succeeded as King of Denmark and become King of England. Harthacnut was the son of King Cnut the Great (who ruled Denmark, Norway, and England) and Emma of Normandy, whose remains have recently believed to have been discovered at Winchester Cathedral.

The cloisters were built between the 14th to 16th centuries and feature two sets of fragile frescoes telling the life story of Saint Benedict.

There were no other visitors when I was there with a small group of journalists and we were free to explore with our guide. So often, when you visit monuments or historic buildings you’re part of a crowd which can affect the experience. The surrounding area is quiet too so there was a feeling of peace, and a small sense of the monks’ day to day life of contemplation.

The buildings have recently been renovated.

There are also guest quarters for those who would like to take a break from the outside world for a short time.

Cloisters built between the 14th to 16th centuries .

Read about my top five places to visit in the Piemonte region of Italy at Luxury Lifestyle Magazine. I travelled as a guest of Visit Piemonte as part of a press trip. My thanks again to everyone who worked so hard in the pouring rain to make our trip incredibly worthwhile.

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