Biella, Province of Biella, Piedmont

Biella, a town in northern Piemonte, is the capital of the province of the same name. The centre 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 river to the west of the town, the Oropa river and the Cervo river to the east.


  • Altitude: 420 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 43,900 inhabitants in 2018
  • Zip/postal code: 13900
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 015
  • Frazioni: Barazzetto, Chiavazza, Colma, Cossila San Giovanni, Cossila San Grato, Favaro, Oropa, Pavignano, Vaglio, Vandorno.

History: Antiquity and Middle Ages

The first inhabitants of the area were Ligurians and Celts, who lived near streams and lakes, at first fishermen and hunters, and later, herders. A Ligurian people, the Victimuli, exploited gold veins near the Elvo, an activity which continued thru the early 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. In the 10th century the town was inhabited by Alemanni, Lombards and Franks, who built the first walls as a defense against barbarian invasions. On April 12, 1160, Uguccione, bishop of Vercelli, granted important trade privileges to anyone residing on Piazzo hill: this was the birth of the Borgo del Piazzo. 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 house of Savoy.

History: from the Renaissance

In the 14th and 15th centuries the Visconti family competed with Savoy for the possession of the Biella area.

The 17th century saw a similar competition between French and Spanish forces; 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, and was transferred to the province of Vercelli in 1927.

The Economy

Biella is still an important wool processing and textile center. In 1245 the statutes of Biella were already referring to the woolworkers' and weavers' guilds. In the 17th and 18th centuries silk was an important industry, and a silk manufacture was built in town in 1695; in 1835 the introduction of mechanical looms put Biella at the forefront of modern improvements in the industry.

What to see

  • The Lombard Romanesque Baptistry and the adjacent church of Santo Stefano, around which the town grew: it is today's cathedral, although the original 5th century building was demolished in 1872.
  • Nearby natural beauties and notable tourist attractions include the outlook at Zegna with the ski resort of Bielmonte.
  • The Burcina Natural Reserve.
  • The moors to the south of town.
  • The sanctuary of Oropa.

Where to stay

ItalyHeritage on Facebook
Family History
Genealogy ResearchNeed help in your research?
Contact us with details and priorities.
Provinces of Piedmont
Piemonte region
Surnames in the Provinces of Piedmont