The Sacro Monte di San Francesco is a pilgrim route devoted to St Francis of Assisi, on Lake Orta’s eastern shore. This UNESCO World Heritage site has wonderful views across the lake, and along the pathway are twenty-one chapels containing colourful, vibrant frescoes which depict the life of the famous saint. They were constructed between 1591 and 1750 and encompass a range of architectural styles from Baroque to Renaissance. In all, there are no fewer than 900 frescoes and 376 sculptures, recreating the tumultuous life and times of St Francis. Art lovers, historians and contemplative individuals come here from all over the world to drink in the views and breathe the fresh air. It’s a place for meditation and relaxation, and speaking of drinking there’s a fine restaurant beside the church of St Nicholas with great views across the lake – just the place to refresh with an iced tea or something stronger.
Eastern shore of Lake Orta in the Italian Lakes (Piedmont & Lombardy).
Google map: bit.ly/MbaCYy
This 8km fairytale system of underground caverns is truly magical, consisting of tunnels and rock-rooms encrusted with minerals and festooned with magnificent stalagmites and stalactites that glitter in the lamplight. They’ve been created by the rivers Placido and Rapido in their underground courses. Although the caverns delve deep into the mountain, the first cave has walkways for visitors to get up close and marvel at these natural wonders. If you want to explore further you can go in with a group of experienced cave explorers from the local speleologists’ association. Not for the claustrophobic, or if you’re afraid of the odd bat, but certainly a breathtaking experience even if you just visit the first vast cavern.
Grotte di Su Mannau s.r.l, Via Vittorio Emanuele, 3 – 09010, Fluminimaggiori
Google map: bit.ly/LV5Yxr
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