Sacro Monte di Varese
However, one needn't travel all the way to Rome for a pilgrimage. North of Milan, in Varese, there is the Sacro Monte di Varese, a centuries-old path leading to the Sanctuary of Santa Maria, which was built in the 1400s.
Located in the Campo di Fiori National Park, the Sacro Monte di Varese is a 1.6 mile path that meanders up a mountain, passing 14 chapels along the way. This gem of a destination is one of nine pilgrimage sites in the region to earn the title of 'World Heritage Site' by U.N.E.S.C.O (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Org.).
Work on the project began in 1604 following the designs of local architect Giuseppe Bernascone, and was completed 94 years later.
Each of the chapels was built in the style of the Borromean era, and are arranged according to the rosary in three groups of five. In addition, each chapel includes a representation of one of the rosary’s mysteries. The final chapel, the Coronation of Mary, is located within the beautiful roccoco-style Sanctuary of Santa Maria.
Within the chapels are murals and terracotta figures that were produced by some of the finest artists of the 1600s: Ghiandone, Ghisolfi, Guttuso, Nuvolone and Prestinari among others.
Along the path, one enco]unters lush flora and fauna and charming nearby villas transport pilgrims to another place in time.
At the end of the journey sits Santa Maria del Monte, an ancient village filled with history, colorful homes and breathtaking views of the many surrounding lakes and valleys.
A pilgrimage to Sacro Monte di Varese is essential to any Lombardian itinerary.