Vogogna is a municipality with just over 1,700 inhabitants located in the province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, surrounded by the luxuriant Ossola Valley. Part of its territory is encompassed in the Val Grande National Park, whose official headquarters are located here. Set against charming mountain peaks, it is just a few kilometres from Lake Maggiore and Verbania, boasts being among Italy's most beautiful villages.
The origin of its unique name is believed to be attributed to the Agon Gauls, an old civilisation living in the area before the Romans. Hence Vogogna seemingly originates from Vallis Agonum, village of the Agons.
However, the first documented evidence relating to Vogogna dates back to 970 AD, in a legal deed. In the years following 1000, the village – a simple country town – became involved in a relationship similar to the vassal system with the nearby town of Pieve Vergonte.
The destruction of the castello di Pietrasanta (Pietrasanta castle) near the Toce River due to the flood in 1328 resulted in Vogogna becoming the centre of the political-administrative life of lower Ossola and therefore the seat of the Jurisdiction of lower Ossola. It maintained that role for almost 500 years up until 1818. In addition to this civil function, the village was also of strategic importance due to its favourable position on the road connecting the plain with Domodossola and with the Swiss Canton Vallese.
After the period of prosperity enjoyed between the 14th-16th centuries under the guide first of the Visconti, then the Sforza and Borromeo families, Vogogna faced decline first under Spanish (1535-1706) and then Austrian (1706-1743) domination. Not even the advent of the Savoy, which was welcomed with ardent hope, was able to bring back the town’s past importance. In fact, it was relegated to the ranks of a simple municipality.
In 1348, Giovanni Visconti, bishop and Lord of Novara and later of Milan, had Palazzo Pretorio built, a pretty example of a broletto (place where justice is administered) in Lombard style, around which initially military fortifications (the castle, walls and perhaps fortress) and later a flourishing village were built.
There are also several oratories and churches here. Some of the most important are in the hamlet of Dresio: the Oratory of San Pietro with its 15th-century frescoes by Giovanni da Campo, and the Oratory of Santa Maria delle Grazie. Churches worth mentioning include the Church of Santa Marta dating back to the 16th century.
This old town, today enhanced with cobblestone paving with a medieval flavour, constitutes the ideal background for community and religious events, as those staged by group Compagnia d’Arme Ducale. Members re-enact weapons and costumes used during the dukedom of Milan in the 15th century.
Every year, on the night of December 24, a few sections of old Palestine are re-enacted in what is a charming living crèche.