However, the best way to admire this historical structure is to approach it “by lake”, and allow yourself to be amazed by the incredible position in which the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso was built: perched on a rocky outcrop, it lies 18 meters above the level of the lake and about 60 meters below the road that runs along the cliff, Santa Caterina has been a destination for pilgrims for almost a thousand years, and it is certainly one of the most incredible attractions on Lake Maggiore today.
The complex you see today is the result of centuries of improvements and changes to the central nucleus, which was built at the end of the XII century.
The convent, little convent and church not only reveal the history of the place – leaving visitors blown away by the various stages it’s undergone to make it what it is today – but they also amaze visitors thanks to a scenic position which is truly unique. Moving from one room to the next, visitors will be able to take in some truly incredible views. Facing northeast, the Borromeo Gulf is protected by the Canton of Valais, and southern views offer a profile of Lake Maggiore as it winds its way towards charming hills. This extraordinary and beautiful view will also accompany any tourists who decide to treat themselves to a brief boat trip that passes from the Piedmont shore to its neighboring Lombard shore.
Once you’ve arrived, and have climbed the steps whose construction literally challenged the forces of nature, you’ll enter the threshold and discover centuries of evolutions in the structure’s architecture and decorations. The Hermitage was founded after a miraculous event in which the life of a merchant named Alberto Besozzi was saved. Today, hundreds of pilgrims still come here to offer up their faithful prayers to the Blessed Alberto Besozzi. The Hermitage was built thanks to the faith and donations of those who asked Alberto for prayers, benedictions, and intercessions.
Once the structure was expanded, embellishments were added: plasterwork, precious wood decorations, wall paintings and large paintings adorn the indoor and outdoor spaces. One of the hermitage’s most fascinating frescos is what remains of a very rare Lombard “Danza Macabre”: listed a few years ago, these extremely rare cycles of frescos were used in the past to warn people about the fleetingness of earthly wealth. Visitors to Santa Caterina can admire one of these frescos here, even though it has sustained visible damage due to atmospheric events.
Beauty, history, tradition, gorgeous views and a peaceful atmosphere are the elements that make Santa Caterina the perfect place to recharge both body and spirit.
As our boat navigates along the shore and skirts the islands, we’ll admire some magnificent buildings before heading towards the Lombard shores of the Verbano area, where we’ll be welcomed by the Santa Caterina del Sasso Ballaro hermitageScopri