It’s been a city since 1532, but surprisingly little information exists about Vigevano. It can only be assumed that its locals prefer to keep it that way, preserving what seems to be one of Italy’s best kept secrets.
It is for this reason that forgiveness must be asked from this great city (located just 30 minutes from Milan), as its beauty and charm are about to be exposed for all to see.
‘The most beautiful piazza in Italy’
It’s not unusual for Italians to brag about their hometowns – along with their mother’s cooking – and those who call Vigevano home are no exception.
The city’s beauty lies mostly within its piazza, which locals claim is the prettiest in all of Italy. It is indeed gorgeous, and its beauty is only enhanced by its purity.
The use of the word ‘purity’ isn’t intended to imply that the piazza is home to a monastery, or that the Pope visits twice a year. What it means is that the open square just…exists. It just sits there, being beautiful. The same way it did hundreds of years ago.
Tourists aren’t lining up to snap photos, no one is trying to sell you a selfie stick, and you couldn’t buy a postcard of the landscape even if you wanted to – because there’s simply no place that sells them.
What you can do, however, is enjoy a glass of wine. Eat some pasta. Do some people watching. Mimic the Italians. Take it slow. This piazza, with its crooked windows and columned archways, begs to be the center of attention – not a mere backdrop. Admire the masterpiece as it was intended to be admired.
The worst mistake that travelers can make is to only visit the most obvious places in a town, forsaking the backroads and side streets. You should live for backroads and side streets, because that’s where the real gems are quite often found.
Vigevano’s hidden roads – many of them made of cobblestones – do not disappoint.
Beautiful architecture lines the streets. Lush plants gracefully hang from their balconies, and historic churches ring their bells, just as they have for centuries.
Local vendors sell produce and meats, and kids ride piggyback on their parents bikes – standing up – as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.
Red roofs dominate the landscape from the higher vistas, while those closer to the ground are more likely to observe the laid-back vibe of the people around them.
Wander. Have no agenda. Turn off that GPS. This city deserves a bit more spontaneity, and the willingness to get just a little bit lost.
When in doubt about whether a city is worth visiting, there’s a simple rule that’s easy to follow: If it was good enough for Leonardo da Vinci, it’s probably good enough for you.
And by that logic, you simply have to pay Vigevano a visit – because the legendary painter stayed as a guest in the city, residing in the castle itself. After all, where else would the man deemed to be the most diversely talented person in the Western world rest his head?
Although modern-day “regular folk” aren’t granted the same privilege of sleeping inside the castle, you can visit its grounds and enjoy the green space surrounding it.
You can also visit the castle’s covered road, which is complete with a beamed ceiling that would be coveted in any modern-day city loft. Add in the stables and falconry, and you’ll soon learn that castles don’t only exist in fairy tales.
If you want a unique experience unlikely to be found in any other castle in the world, visit the Vigevano Shoe Museum. Although it’s admittedly an odd venue, it does make sense for the city to boast such a place, since shoemaking is part of what makes the city tick.
And hey – maybe it’s actually rather fitting (pun intended) to house the shoe museum in such a royal location, considering Cinderella’s own history with shoes and castles.
Writing about food in Italy never gets old…and how could it? There are a million different ways to enjoy pasta and pizza (although Italy has a lot more to offer), and who could ever tire of eating gelato?
A wander down one of the backroads will land you at Gelati Susy Caffè, a modest little establishment full of locals and tasty looking pastries.
An espresso, a cookie filled with what can only be described as God’s own honey-flavored nectar, and a tiramisu coffee drink (complete with amaretto liqueur) will prove that the cafè is more than worthy of a pit stop.
For lunch, try Rococò, located right in the middle of the piazza. Its outdoor tables have a perfect view of the town’s busiest gathering place.
Two glasses of white wine, a bottle of water, a smoked ham taglioni, and a massive quattro stagioni (four seasons) pizza will set you back just €30 – an extremely reasonable price for the quality and quantity received. And while you should always expect to be served by waiters operating on “Italian time,” the service is so prompt that you might actually find yourself asking for more time to decide.
For your post-dinner gelato, head back to Gelati Susy. Try a small (though actually quite large) cup of creamy goodness in the form of oreo and mint chocolate. Two flavors + one cup = €2.40.
Whatever flavors you choose, just make sure you visit Vigevano – and leave your experience in the comments section!