The area of low hills and rice fields in the northern part of Novara province retains its rural character, enhanced by the many cascine (farmhouses), roccoli (fowling towers) and outbuildings scattered around the territory.
Two fine examples of this kind of “spontaneous” building, which originated in response to a functional requirement, are farm complexes located near Ghemme: Cascina Ferrera and Cascina Cattanea.
Cascina Ferrera, on the right along the road from Ghemme to Carpignano Sesia, was a completely self-sufficient community where people and their animals lived together in harmony. The Cascina has an internal courtyard enclosed on all four sides by the animal sheds, barns and living quarters. Three old sundials dating from the 18th-19th centuries grace the buildings; one of them bears the legend “Datemi il sole vi darò l’ora” (Give me the sun and I will give you the time).
Cascina Cattanea can be seen from the A26 motorway before the exit for Romagnano Sesia. Unlike the Ferrera complex, this one is completely surrounded by walls, with tower-like buildings at the corners and a longer unit devoted to the living quarters. This was nothing less than a fortified farm, built in a strategic position: the road from Ghemme to the River Sesia was historically the border between the Duchy of Milan and the Duchy of Savoy.