One of Piedmont’s best-known tourist attractions is the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, whose elliptical dome is the largest in the world.

The complex has its origins in a votive pillar decorated with a fifteenth-century fresco of the Madonna and Child, created to propitiate the baking of bricks. A prodigious hunting accident made this place a destination for increasingly frequent pilgrimages, so much so that in 1596 Duke Carlo Emanuele I of Savoy commissioned the construction of a large sanctuary.

The sanctuary was supposed to welcome the many pilgrims and become a place for the family tombs; the mausoleum of the House of Savoy was later transferred to the Basilica of Superga.

When both the architect and the Duke passed away, construction came to a halt and work resumed only many years later.

Once again it was Francesco Gallo who, 1728, pulled the chestnuts from the fire by undertaking the daunting feat of building the mighty 74-metre high elliptical dome. It is said that when the dome was ready to be dismantled, given the enormity of the job, the workers refused to remove the supports for fear it would collapse and Gallo himself had to go and take down the scaffolding to demonstrate the stability of the building.

To facilitate the movement of the many pilgrims visiting the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, in 1884 a tramway was inaugurated that stopped right in front of the entrance. It was then decommissioned in the 1950s according to the fashion of the time.