Novara (105,000 inhabitants) lies between the rivers Agogna and Terdoppio, 50 km (31 mi) from Milan and 95 km (59 mi) from Turin. It is an important crossroads for commercial traffic along the routes from Milan to Turin and from Genoa to Switzerland.

It was founded in ancient times by the Romans on a former Celtic settlement. It was sacked and destroyed by the Barbarian invasions, and became a duchy under the Lombards. Next it enjoyed the rights of free imperial city and in the 11th century it joined the Lombard League. After the dominion of the Visconti and of the Sforza families, it passed to the house of Savoy and then followed the major events of the rest of Italy.

Nowadays Novara is an important commercial centre and industrial area; it is the headquarters of the Centro Intermodale Merci (CIM: Goods Intermodal Centre). The main economic products and services are: agriculture (mainly rice and corn), metallurgical production, chemicals and petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, food industry, intermodal commerce and logistics, banking and insurance services, publishing. The presence of the University and of its incubator has empowered its economical vocation.

Novara boasts the highest number of UPO students (ca. 6,300) and is the headquarters of four departments: :

  • Dipartimento di Scienze del farmaco (DSF) – Pharmaceutical Sciences;
  • Dipartimento di Studi per l’economia e l’impresa (DiSEI) – Economics and Business;
  • Dipartimenti di Medicina traslazionale and Dipartimento di Scienze della salute (the teaching is upon the School of Medicine) – Medicine and Health Sciences.

The departments are based in four campuses:

  • Campus Perrone, on the site once occupied by the city Barracks. It is conceived as a large urban joint, or as a bridge between the historical and the modern city, with a structure of independent but interconnected buildings. Here we find the whole of DiSEI and the teaching activities of Law and of the School of Medicine;
  • the Sant'Agabio pole, which includes the area once occupied by Wild Cotton Mill (largo Donegani) and the building designed by Renzo Piano for the former Experimental Institute for Light Metals (Via Bovio). The DSF and some spin-off companies of the Incubator are located here.
  • Palazzo Bellini (via Solaroli), home to the medical pole, is an independent part of the Maggiore Hospital, which houses the university clinics;
  • the Via Lanino Pole, owned by the Salesian Institute, hosts Crimedim and Simnova, respectively the research and the teaching centre for Emergency and Disaster Medicine.