Through the streets of the town center
The true historical centre of Riva San Vitale--which stands as testimony to the village’s social and political life throughout the centuries--is recorded in the Federal Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites (ISOS) and is an essential part of your visit.
The journey through the history of Riva San Vitale starts from the parish church of San Vitale and the magnificent fifth-century Baptistery dedicated to St. John the Baptist. As Switzerland’s most notable Roman and Paleochristian monument, the Baptistery is typically medieval in style, with Romanesque and Late Romanesque frescoes that depict the life of Jesus from the Nativity to the Crucifixion, and a special area dedicated to the Last Judgment.
From the parish church, continue to the Oratory of San Rocco. Adjacent to the boundary of the tree-lined avenue just across from the church on the left hand side is Casa Maderni, which was formerly Casa Bernasconi and is today the site of the Virginia Tech Steger Center for International Scholarship (American University School of Architecture).
As you proceed down toward Piazza Grande, take Via Gian Battista Mantegazzi (1889-1958). The street, with its typical courtyards, is dedicated to the famous composer who was born in Riva San Vitale. Via Opera don Guanella leads to the Istituto San Pietro Canisio (formerly Casa della Croce), which is situated next to the splendid casa Houck, also built by the Della Croce family.
Special mention goes to the Church of Santa Croce, an important late-sixteenth-century religious building that has undergone several renovations.
The Municipal Building dominates the Piazza Grande, situated in the village’s historical centre. The building was constructed by the Della Croce family during the second half of the sixteenth century for commercial trading purposes.
The village boasts numerous and interesting medieval architectural treasures, as well as several modern buildings, including one of the first family homes designed by the renowned architect Mario Botta (casa Bianchi in the Battuta area of the village).
Riva San Vitale is an enchanting place where tourists and residents alike can admire the best examples of ancient and modern art and architecture that the generosity of previous generations has handed down for the benefit of all.