One of nine hills that form the UNESCO World Heritage Site of sacred pilgrim routes in Piedmont and Lombardy, the Sacro Monte (Sacred Hill) de Varese is in the Campo dei Fiori Regional Park north of the city of Varese.
Dating from 1604, the Sacro Monte owes its origins to a Capuchin monk and wends its way 1.25 miles (2 km) uphill past a group of 14 chapels interspersed with three archways and three fountains. Marking a medieval pilgrim route dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary, they are scenically located among a rustic backdrop of hills, forests and distant mountains and each showcases an event in the life of Jesus. The chapels were the work of major Lombardian architects and every one has a portico of a different design. Likewise each is adorned with statuary and frescoes; the most recent addition is the Flight from Egypt in the Nativity Chapel, which was painted by Renato Guttuso in 1983.
After a walk of about 1.5 hours, the pilgrim route lead up to the hilltop village of Santa Maria del Monte, which has a 15th-century Sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary. With views extending to the Alps, the village also has two small museums and a permanent nativity scene as well as several restaurants and hotels.
Via Assunzione, 21, Frazione Santa Maria del Monte, Varese. No charge for walking the Sacro Monte. Sanctuary open daily 8am 12pm, 2pm–6pm. Best accessed along the A8 Milan toll road, exit Varese. A funicular operates between the parking lot at the Prima Cappella and the top of Sacro Monte on Saturdays and Sundays all year round, and daily during August.