Discover the 7 Sacred Mountains of Piedmont
By Lara Statham
Did you even know that there are 7 sacred mountains to discover in Piedmont? Most people I speak too don’t really know what I’m talking about. They think that the 7 sacred mountains might include the Sacra di San Michele in Avigliana…but that’s another article! So, what better excuse then for a blog post to make it all crystal clear?
I decided to set forth on a mission to enlighten others. Plus, I wanted to get the full details to be able to discover the 7 sacred mountains of Piedmont for myself: Where they are, what they are, and a few other things you might not know.
Where are they?
We need to sort the geography out before we get on to the finer details. Piedmont is huge. It is made up of over 25,000 square kilometres. Therefore, we need to get our bearings.
The 7 Sacred Mountains of Piedmont or Sacri Monti lie in the subalpine valleys in: Belmont, Crea, Domodossola, Ghiffa, Oropa, Orta and Varallo.
- Belmont is in the Valperga Canavese about 35 kilometres north of Turin in the Canavese – famous for its cakes such as the Torta 500 di Ivrea.
- Crea is in the Province of Alessandria in the Monferrato hills of Piedmontese wine and gastronomy fame. The Monferrato also boasts some of Piedmont’s most impressive castles.
- Domodossola is in the north of Piedmont. It’s near to the Swiss border and even closer to the downhill ski slopes of Domobianca. Perfect for weekend winter breaks.
- Ghiffa is in the comune of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola about 120 kilometres from Turin on the west shore of Lake Maggiore. Imagine the views!
- Oropa is in the comune of Biella a town famous for its craft beer called Menabrea. My personal favourite! It is also well-known locally for its luxurious cashmere products.
- Orta refers to the comune where you find the devotional complex perched on a hill called San Nicolao. The hill faces the western shore of Lake Orta in the Province of Novara, 100 kilometres north-east of Turin and about 40 kilometres from Novara.
- Varallo is better known as Varallo Sesia in the province of Vercelli which is famous for its rice production. Riso Venere is grown here. This is a black wholegrain rice (riso nero di Vercelli) that turns a rich aubergine shade on cooking. It tastes most delicious when combined with seafood and a crisp white wine!
What are the 7 sacred mountains of Piedmont?
Now we need to get to the details.
These sites of pilgrimage and worship were built in the late 16th and 17th centuries.
- Sacro Monte di Belmonte in Valperga. Built in 1712. It includes a church and a number of chapels. The complex is dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary.
- Sacro Monte di Serralunga di Crea. Built in 1589. It stands atop a hill rather than a mountain. It’s a steep walk to the top through the surrounding parkland. Also dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary.
- Sacro Monte Calvario di Domodossola (The Sacred Cavalry Mount of Domodossola). Built in 1657. The devotional route starts just outside Domodossola town. There are 2 elegant neo-classical chapels along the route which winds up Mount Matteralla to the sanctuary at top.
- Sacro Monte di Ghiffa. Built in 1591. There are stunning views of Lake Maggiore from the terrace. The complex includes the sanctuary and chapels and is dedicated to the mystery of the Trinity.
- Sacro Monte di Oropa. Built in 1617. It’s huge! The largest sanctuary in the Alps to be dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It is just a 20-minute drive from Biella and boasts one of the most stunning settings of the 7 sacred Mountains of Piedmont. Definitely not to be missed. http://www.santuariodioropa.it
- Sacro Monte di Orta San Giulio. Built in 1590. This complex of chapels is in one of the most beautiful settings in Piedmont. Admire the architecture and some fabulously well preserved works of art. Then walk down the sacred mountain to the shore of Lake Orta.
- Sacro Monte di Varallo Sesia. Built in 1486 or 1491? I found 2 dates. It’s still the oldest of the lot though! It includes a Basilica and chapels which are colourfully decorated with frescos and incredible life size statues.
Did you know?
- The 7 sacred mounts of Piedmont are actually the 9 Sacred Mounts of Piedmont and Lombardy (Sacri Monti di Piemonte e Lombardia)? Yes, northern Italy’s great rivals are being forced to share this time! Boo!!!!
- The Sacri Monti are on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
- Inside the churches, chapels and cathedrals you can see beautiful frescos of events from the sacred scriptures.
Go to www.sacrimonti.net to discover more about these points of interest in Piedmont, the 7 sacred mountains of Piedmont and Lombardy.
*I’ve had some difficulty getting on this site. Some days it loads ok and others it wouldn’t load at all. Other sites to visit: