Sacri Monti UNESCO Trail
The park that contains a complex of chapels called the Sacri Monti is not only a beautiful walk, it's also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The trail up the "sacred mountain" departs from Orta San Giulio, and ascends through the woods above Lake Orta. The devotional complex is part of a phenomenon during the counter reformation period that scattered chapels in a certain area, throughout Piedmont and Lombardy. The various installations are grouped under the UNESCO program as important cultural creations that fall under the World Heritage Site designation.
The Orta chapels are part of the Riserva Naturale Speciale Sacro Monte, a special nature preserve to maintain the integrity of the site. The 20 chapels are dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi and were built over the years from 1590 through 1780, with each depicting a scene of the saint's life. The first was funded by the wealthy abbot of Villombrosa, with others being added by the town of Orta and other patrons, built in various styles and eras, from Renaissance to Baroque to Neoclassical. Each is unique and placed along the path that transports trekkers through the trees upward, to emerge at the crest to a stunning vista of Lake Orta. The manicured trail is well maintained, lined by a hedgerow as it passes the natural growth of pines and oaks. From simple to elaborate, each chapel is decorated with frescoes and statues to recount the life of St. Francis is great visual detail.
Start at the Giardino dei Semplici, where the park office is located and follow the trail up to the monastery of San Nicolo. Enjoy the pleasant walk and the breathtaking views.
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