Family Outings - The squares and toys of Bra
A tour of the town featuring old buildings, historical landmarks, and a one-of-a-kind museum of toys and games.
From the train station, where you can also find parking, cross the street onto the tree-lined Piazza Roma, at the centre of which there is a nice playground with fountain. Cross the square to the right, then take Via Audisio (where there is the school Istituto Tecnico-Commerciale E. Guala) to the end of the road. After the first intersection, the road narrows and becomes more enjoyable. At the second intersection, turn to the left onto Via Vittorio Emanuele II, the town’s retail district and continue on past the baroque Church of San Antonio.
Take the second road to the right, Via Gianolio, then take Corso Garibaldi to the left until you reach Piazza Caduti della Libertà, where you will find the town’s main historical monuments. Right in front of you as you arrive from Corso Garibaldi, you will see the Church of Sant’Andrea, built by Guarino Guarini based on a design by Gian Lorenzo Bernini. To the right there is the Town Hall, of medieval origin but with a 18th century facade by the architect Vittone. Next to this, there is Palazzo Valfrè and then Palazzo Traversa. At the end of the square to the right, there is Palazzo Garrone. In front of the Town Hall, there is the start of Il Grande Sentiero del Roero (“the Great Roero Trail”, trail S1), an itinerary of over 40 km (25 mi) that runs along the crest of the Rocche rock formations through ancient villages. The entire trail is too long for children, but shorter sections of it may be done.
Across from the Town Hall, there is Palazzo Mathis, which is of medieval origin but was extensively restructured in the 1700s. On the ground floor of this building, you will find the information office. In the centre of the square, there is a statue of St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo, who was from Bra and whose house is not far from here. To see it, head up Corso Cottolengo (pedestrian traffic only), which runs parallel to, but higher than, the road you took to get to the square. Corso Cottolengo passes in front of the Church of S.S. Trinità dei Battuti Bianchi, which dates back to the 1200s, although its current style is most definitely baroque. Just past the church, you will find the birthplace of the saint. This section of the tour is particularly enjoyable for children, because it invites them to run and play in complete safety and features benches next to vases of flowers at an elevated vista point.
A stairway will take you back to Corso Garibaldi as you discover the ample porticos that support the section of road you’ve just walked along. This, too, is another area where children can run free without worries.
Cross the street at the end of the stairs and take Via della Medicità Istruita back to Via Vittorio Emanuele II. Continue along Via Vittorio Emanuele II to the right until you reach the intersection with Via Cavour across from the Church of San Giovanni Decollato dei Battuti Neri, known for assisting prisoners who have been condemned to death and other incarcerated. Take Via Cavour to the Church of San Rocco, in which political meetings were held during the French Revolution, then continue along the same street, keeping the church to your right. Cross Piazza Carlo Alberto diagonally to your right and take Via Umberto I until you reach the intersection with Via E. Guala to your left (the road is open to traffic, but it is blocked on this side by a flower bed to prevent vehicle access).
At the end of the street, you will reach the municipal library and the Toy Museum, which features a wonderful collection of toys from every era and in all sorts of materials and shows how childhood has changed over the ages. Definitely worth a visit! After the museum, you will also want to visit the adjacent Piazza Giolitti, where there is a playground and lots of space in which to run and play. To get back to the train station, take Via Trento e Trieste near the café.
The delicacy of Bra is, without doubt, its cheese, which is made from milk from local farmhouses and comes in various degrees of aging. There is also a local sausage made from veal and a small amount of pork. It is said to owe its origins to a Jewish community in nearby Cherasco (originally it was an all-veal sausage) and was once produced under a royal concession of the House of Savoy of 1847, whereas in the rest of Italy the use of veal or beef in sausage was prohibited. Bra sausage is normally served raw as an appetizer.
Franco Voglino and Annalisa Porporato
Along the way:
Point of interest along the way
29 Piazza Roma
29 Piazza Roma