The Sacri Monti Trail unwinds for approximately 700 kilometres along an ancient pre-Alpine road which connects the 7 Sacri Monti of Piedmont to the two in Lombardy. These unique artistic-religious complexes located in Italy have been UNESCO World Heritage sites since 2003. These strongholds which symbolised Catholic faith against protestant heresy were erected between 15th and 18th century on hills and mountainous areas. They became a popular pilgrim destination, viewed as an alternative to the pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
In Piedmont, the trail starts at the Sacro Monte Calvario di Domodossola (built with the intention of being a "New Jerusalem"), goes past the Sacro Monte di Varallo, then Oropa, Belmonte, Crea, Orta and Ghiffa, until reaching the Sacro Monte of Ossuccio (Varese). These Baroque masterpieces welcome visitors to spacious Special Nature Reserves, created to protect and celebrate rich biodiversity. A green landscape which recharges the body and mind and safeguards a polychromatic world of chapels, sanctuaries and statues of great beauty dedicated to the Life and Passion of Christ, the Virgin, the Holy Trinity, the Rosary and - only in Orta - the story of San Francesco.
In Piedmont, this ancient sacred road boasts a singular record: along its 30 milestones, it has the highest number of UNESCO sites in the world: from the Wine regions of the Langhe , Roero and Monferrato to the Royal Savoy Residences of Piedmont; in Canavese, from Ivrea, Industrial City of 20th century to two prehistoric pile-dwelling sites in Azeglio (on Lake Viverone) and Mercurago (Lagoni Park near Arona), to the Sacred Mountains.
From the Sacri Monti Trail,walkers and excursionists can expand their itinerary by connecting to the Via Francigena and the Trail of San Bernardo (from the Sempione to Novara), or the scenic Trail of San Carlo, which retraces the steps of Carlo Borromeo from Varallo to Arona. Here, going up the indoor staircase to “San Carlone”, the colossal 35 metre statue of the Cardinal-turned-saint, you can look out onto the breathtaking landscape of Lago Maggiore from the bronze peep-holes.