Santa Maria Sopra Olcio is a small isolated church on the mountains overlooking the Lecco shore of Lake Como and can only be reached by following a path that starts from Somana, a small fraction of Mandello del Lario. This location, also known to lovers of two wheels because the Moto Guzzi is based here.
The path to reach the church of Santa Maria Sopra Olcio follows the road to reach Era, path number 15 marked by the green white green color. You can’t go wrong because following the route you can easily reach the middle of it after about an hour of walking. Along the way there are the stations of the Via Crucis, so you can also keep this as a reference point.
The start of the trail is in Somana. A small car park is available not far from via Santa Maria. The route also crosses two paths on the Via dei Partigiani. Once you have taken the narrow road, you go up a few steps that will take you into the woods. One after the other we find black crosses with crowns of thorns and an inscription at the base. These are the stations of the Cross. About every hundred steps we meet one. From time to time among the trees there are also some panoramic glimpses from where you can admire Abbadia Lariana and the lake. Like the one, you find when you arrive at the Chapel of Santa Brigida, where you also have an exceptional view of the Grigne.
The path will still reserve pleasant surprises for us, in fact, just before the fourteenth chapel we will see the agglomeration that includes the church that we can admire in all its beauty from the bottom up. Step by step we reach the final point, that is Santa Maria Sopra Olcio.
We have called it a church, in reality, it is a sanctuary whose construction dates back to the 11th century as a point of devotion for the wayfarers who passed through here, being the place located on the road that connects Mandello del Lario to Valsassina. We are at 660 meters above sea level and the complex of houses that is enclosed around the sacred building also contained a farrier to shoe the horses. Finished under papal protection in 1145, the building later became a convent for the Benedictine friars. It was closed by the will of the bishop of Como in 1441 also due to the lack of vocations. Only in the first decade of the 1700s, a hermit settled here and devoted his life to the renovation of the dilapidated structure. It was he who built the porch in front of the church. Other important restorations were completed in 1927, while a fire hit the church in 1997.
The Romanesque church of Santa Maria Sopra Olcio has a single nave and in the presbytery, you can admire some sixteenth-century frescoes such as the Madonna with child and the saints Lorenzo and Rocco. The bell tower dates back to the 11th century and has kept part of its original construction. The building that encompasses the church was enlarged with the structure of the convent and with rooms to accommodate travelers.
How do I get to Mandello del Lario?
Mandello del Lario can be reached from the A4 Torino Trieste motorway, Cinisello Balsamo exit, then follow the state road 36 to Abbadia Lariana, then follow the Sp 72 to Mandello. From here, follow the road to the Saioli and reach Somana, where a small parking lot is located a few meters from the beginning of the route.