Biella


Biella

Infobox CityIT
img_coa =
official_name = Comune di Biella
name=Biella
region = Piedmont
province = Biella (BI)
elevation_m = 420
area_total_km2 = 46.68
population_as_of =
population_total = 46538
population_density_km2 = 992
timezone = CET, UTC+1
coordinates = coord|45|34|N|08|04|E
mapx=45.501
mapy=8.098
frazioni =
telephone = 015
postalcode = 13900
gentilic = Biellesi
saint = St. Stephen
day = December 26
mayor = Vittorio Barazzotto
website = [http://www.comune.biella.it www.comune.biella.it]

Biella (Latin: Bugella) is a town and comune in the northern Italian region of Piemonte, the capital of the province of the same name, with 45,500 inhabitants as of the 2001 census. It is located about 50 miles northeast of Turin and about 60 miles west-northwest of Milan.

It lies in the foothills of the Alps, in the Bo mountain range near Mt. Mucrone and Camino, an area rich in springs and lakes, the heart of the Biellese Alps irrigated by several mountain torrents: the Elvo to the west of the town, the Oropa and the Cervo to the east. Nearby natural beauties, and notable tourist attractions, include the outlook at Zegna with the ski resort of Bielmonte; Burcina Natural Reserve; and the moors to the south of town. Religious pilgrims make their way to the Sanctuary of Oropa. In 2003, the Sacred Mountain of Oropa was inserted by UNESCO in the World Heritage List.

Biella is an important wool processing and textile center. There is a small airport in the nearby comune of Cerrione.

History

Origins

That the first inhabitants of the area were Ligurians and Celts has been ascertained from archaeological finds: they lived near streams and lakes, at first fishermen and hunters, and later, herders.

A Ligurian people, the Victimuli, fanned out in the plain of Biella (the "Bessa") and exploited gold veins near the Elvo, an activity which continued through the early Middle Ages, and even today panning for gold continues as a local hobby.

In the late 1950s, Bronze Age — or, according to some, Iron Age — tools and necklaces, attesting to Biella's antiquity, were found in the Burcina Reserve.

Middle Ages

The city's name appears for the first time as "Bugella" in a document of 826 recording to the donation of Bugella to Count Busone by Louis the Pious, son of Charlemagne), Holy Roman Emperor; a further document of 882 records some land transactions of Charles the Fat in favor of the church of Vercelli.

In the 10th century the town was inhabited by Alemanni, Lombards and Franks, who built the first walls as a defense against barbarian invasions. Extant remains from this period include the Lombard Romanesque Baptistry and the adjacent church of S. Stefano, around which the town grew: it is today's cathedral, although the original 5th century building was demolished in 1872.

On April 12, 1160, Uguccione, bishop of Vercelli, granted important trade privileges to anyone residing on Piazzo hill, as an incentive to the estt of a place of refuge against the warfare between the Guelphs and Ghibellines of Vercelli: this was the birth of the Borgo del Piazzo, site of the handsome public square, the Piazza Cisterna, and a Palace fronting on it, the doors of which have stone capitals and terracotta ornaments.

Bishop Uguccione's castle was destroyed in a revolt in 1377 that led to the subjection of Biella, along with its dependent "comuni", to the yoke of the house of Savoy.

Modern times

In the 14th and 15th centuries the Visconti family competed with Savoy for the possession of the Biella region. The 17th century saw a similar competition between French and Spanish forces, and Biella was actually occupied in 1704; in 1706 Pietro Micca, a Biellese soldier, saved nearby Turin from a siege that would have meant the invasion of Biella by the French as well — but paid for it with his own life.

In 1798 Biella was once again occupied by the French, and after the battle of Marengo, Biella was formally annexed by France. The Congress of Vienna returned it to Savoy.

In 1859 Biella was besieged by the Austrians but Garibaldi forced an end to the siege, and the town became part of the province of Novara, losing its status as regional capital that it had received in the 17th century from Charles Emmanuel I of Savoy; it was transferred to the province of Vercelli in 1927.

In World War II Biella was the scene of armed resistance.

In 1992, the new province of Biella was formed, separating the territory from the north-western sector of the province of Vercelli.

Wool in the life of Biella

In 1245 the statutes of Biella were already referring to the woolworkers' and weavers' guilds: hardly surprising in view of the region's high mountain pastures and copious water supply needed for washing fleece and powering mills. In the 17th and 18th centuries, as elsewhere in Italy, silk was an important industry, and a silk manufacture was built in town in 1695: in 1835, however, the town's textile history came round full circle when the same building was put to use as a wool factory with the introduction of mechanical looms, putting Biella at the forefront of modern improvements in the industry. Since 1999/2000, a progressively worse crisis in the sector forced many local wool mills to close, since they cannot compete with the extremely low prices of fabric and clothing from China.

Main sights

* Giardino Botanico di Oropa, a botanical garden
* Sacro Monte di Oropa

External links

* [http://www.comune.biella.it/ Official Site]
* [http://www.atl.biella.it/ ATL]
* [http://www.docbi.it/stradalana.htm The Wool Road]
* [http://www.museodelterritorio.biella.it/flex/FixedPages/IT/Home.php3 Museo del territorio/Ecomusei]
* [http://www.biellacitta.com Biella Unofficial Portal]
* [http://www.sacrimonti.net/User/index.php?PAGE=Sito_it/Catalogo_eng Official web site for European Sacred Mounts] en icon


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