The current name derives from Bugella, which appeared in historical documents for the first time in 826; however, its origins stretch back to the Iron Age. During the Roman Empire it was already a blossoming town, hinged around the two centres: Piano and Biella Piazzo. Subsequently, the economic and demographic expansion meant that Piano regained its importance and became the fulcrum of the city. The sixteenth century began with Biellas, together with all of Piedmont, general discontent for the French and Spanish occupation; in 1522 and 1599 the plague brought about numerous victims. Peace was reached in 1642, but Biella was once again occupied by the French in 1704, and remained so up until the Battle of Turin that once again freed the city. In 1772 it was given bishopric status and then, in 1798, French Republicans occupied it; authentic liberation came along in 1859 when Garibaldi made the Austrian troops withdraw. In 1943 the city was occupied by the Germans, but was freed by the Partisans in 1945.
The city and its monuments
The city centre lies in the Biella Piano where many religious monuments can be found: the Piazza with its cathedral, with many frescos and paintings inside and its pre-Romanic Baptistery; finally, there are the churches of Santissima Trinità, San Sebastiano, San Filippo, San Cassiano and San Francesco dAssisi. Other sights to visit include the Porta della Torrazza, an arch built be the Council in 1780 to commemorate the four royal visits by the Savoy family, and the Palazzo Scaglia, a sixteenth century peerage residence, the Civic Museum and the Museum of the Alpine Troops. The area known as Biella Piazzo can be reached by a cable railway. Here it is possible to visit piazza Cisterna with the Palazzo della Cisterna, the Porta dAndorno, the church of San Giacomo, the Palazzo Gromo di Ternengo and the suggestive hexagonal Tower.
The geographical area
Around Biella there is a variety of landscapes that is, without a doubt, the main characteristic of the entire surrounding area. There are villages such as Pettinengo, ancient wool processing centre, which is situated on the top of a hill, Andorno Micca, Sagliano Micca, Candelo, a medieval suburb with a pentagonal layout, Verrone and Benna, where there is the Bessa nature reserve. Within this beautiful reserve there is a type of open air gold mine from Roman times, and is important not only for its natural features but also for archaeological elements. There are many other reserves in this area including Burcina, an authentic example of an English Garden, with its tree lined roads and various botanic species. Other reserves include the Baragge and the Zegna oasis. Finally, there is the Serra morainic hill, the longest in Europe, part of which is the Serra dIvrea morainic arena that dominates the Viverne Lake.