A place of faith and prayer, the Sacro Monte di Varese is a panoramic point to see the city of Varese from above and much more.
Campo dei Fiori is a highly panoramic hilly area overlooking the city of Varese, surrounded by nature and paths. One, in particular, is the one followed by pilgrims since ancient times and which leads to the small town of Santa Maria del Monte. It is a short excursion full of artistic and religious references that date back to the mid-1400s.
Sacro Monte di Varese, the village of Santa Maria del Monte
The visit to the Sacro Monte di Varese today is considered a simple Sunday trip, even if this place is still a space for prayer and meditation. You can also get here to admire the wonderful natural scenery that sweeps between mountains and plains and which on clear days leads us to admire the infinite on the Po Valley that opens up in front of the small village of Santa Maria del Monte. There are those who arrive at the top to have lunch in the restaurants of this locality and those who come up here to take photographs or because this is also the starting point for an excursion to the Fort of Orino. Certainly it is a very popular place for families even with small children. The climb to Santa Maria del Monte is slightly tiring in some places, but practicable.
The story takes us to the mid-1400s. It is from this period that the blessed Caterina Moriggi da Pallanza retired to meditate in this place, soon followed by the blessed Giuliana Puricelli from Busto Arsizio.
It was they who founded a monastery in 1476, even if the legend of Saint Ambrose hangs over this in the 4th century AD. from this hill above Varese he defeated the last followers of the Arian heresy and donated an altar and a wooden statue depicting the Black Madonna to the small oratory under construction. One of the nuns of the monastery had the idea of building a rest chapel in the middle of the path that the faithful had to travel to reach the Sanctuary. The idea pleased the Capuchin friar Giovan Battista Aguggiari who started a fundraiser in the area to give life to the project. Sacro Monte di Varese, chapel of the Annunciation
Having obtained the consent of Cardinals Carlo and Federico Borromeo and that of Pope Paul V, the friar entrusted the construction site to the Varese architect Giuseppe Bernascone who between 1604 and 1630 built the 14 chapels of the route (the fifteenth is located inside the sanctuary).
The insertion of the three hundred statues and the realization of the frescoes in the chapels went on several years after the closure of the construction site.
The project envisaged the arrangement of the temples according to a precise architectural and spatial theory following cobbled ramps, slopes and lengths that were always variable to fill the 245 meter difference in height between the entrance arch and the Monastery.
A journey between prayer and penance
The devotional path, which at the time was overcome by reciting the Holy Rosary, had foreseen the arrangement of the chapels at such a distance, one from the other, in order to recite a suitable number of prayers and exhaust the Rosary only by reaching the end of the route.
Today this is no longer the case. This sacred place is a popular destination for Sunday excursions. You always go up for the two kilometers that separate the entrance arch from the Monastery, but from time to time the peace and quiet of the place is interrupted by the shouting of children.
The Chapels of the Sacro Monte
The path that leads to Santa Maria del Monte starts from the church of the Immaculate Conception. This is the introductory building to the Via Sacra. In the information found to the right of the church, it is erroneously indicated as the first chapel.
Note the detail of the apse with the statue of Mary crushing the dragon.
Sacro Monte di Varese, XII chapel
The true devotional path begins from the First Arch, known as the Rosary, dominated by the statue of Mary with the Child who offers the Rosary crown to pilgrims, while the two statues on the sides depict St. Dominic and St. Francis. These are two statues from the Baroque era.
After the arch, on the left we find the fountain known as the Samaritana, with two frescoes on the sides, one, the one on the right is now deteriorated, while the one on the left is still visible.
Then as you go up, you meet the chapels. Let's stop and observe. Each one has architectural details on the outside and interesting statues on the inside.
The fresco by Guttuso
At the height of the Third Chapel, that of the Nativity, in addition to the classic Nativity scene, we can admire the fresco created in 1983 by the master Renato Guttuso, depicting the "Flight into Egypt".
Sacro Monte di Varese, the fresco by Renato Guttuso, "Flight into Egypt"
The Second Arch
After the fifth chapel, we reach the Second Arch, the one dedicated to San Carlo. It introduces the area of the "Sorrowful Mysteries".
Before the arch, on the right gushes the water of the second fountain of 1654.
It was once a source of watering for pilgrims, today unfortunately the water is not drinkable. Sacro Monte of Varese, Arch of San Carlo
Still cobbled uphill to reach the Sixth Chapel, the Oration in the Garden of Olives. Inside nine statues made by Silva and the frescoes by Bartolomeo Ghiandone.
This chapel has a peculiarity: it was built with a north orientation to allow light to penetrate laterally, creating a sort of nocturnal effect, merging a sinister half-light with the statue of Judas.
After passing this oratory, we arrive at the Grotta delle Beate, which is the place where the blessed Caterina Moriggi and Giuliana Puricelli retired, founding the cloistered monastery in the mid-15th century.
The Third Arch
The Third Arch, that of Sant'Ambrogio, introduces the five Glorious Mysteries. At the top the statue of the blessing saint, while at his side there is still a fountain to quench the thirst of pilgrims.
According to historians, the Eleventh Chapel was built on the foundations of a Roman tower.
Sacro Monte di Varese, fountain of Moses
The last chapel is inserted in the Saltuario, which can be reached by passing the Fountain of Moses.
The small village is a succession of alleys and underpasses. The panorama we admire is also very impressive. The view is lost on the Po Valley, on one side, on the mountains overlooking Como, on the other, or in the opposite direction towards the lakes: Maggiore, Comabbio, Monate and, of course, Varese.
Sacro Monte di Varese, the interior of the sanctuary
To return to the base you can go down by cable car. Or by going back along the way. Those who want can drive up to the village and go back along the way.
The Sacro Monte di Varese complex is part of the Unesco World Heritage monuments.
Sacro Monte di Varese, panorama from Santa Maria del Monte
How do I get to the Sacro Monte di Varese
The Sacro Monte di Varese can be reached by car from the A8 motorway (Milan-Varese) continue towards the city center of Varese, following the signs for the carriage road that leads to Campo dei Fiori and passing through the hamlets of: S. Ambrogio, Robarello , Fogliaro, First Chapel.
Those arriving by car can park in the funicular square or on the bend just before the square (there is space on the side of the road).
In the summer or on Sundays, the last stretch of the road is often closed to traffic. You can park your car in front of the racecourse and continue by bus. Urban line "C" station area, viale Aguggiari.
By train: Varese has two railway stations, one of Trenord, the Milan-Varese-Laveno line, the other of Trenitalia and is on the Milan-Varese-Porto Ceresio line.
Where to stay in Varese?
On the lake of varese and in the surroundings there are several hotels, agritourisms and b & bs
Recommended tours in Varese
You do not need to book any tours to visit the Sacro Monte di Varese
Where to photograph?
From the beginning of the devotional path to the arrival in Santa Maria del Monte, every corner is a starting point for a beautiful photograph
Is any special equipment needed?
I used a 50mm and a medium tele
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