Sacro Monte of Varese
The processional way of the Sacro Monte of Varese runs along the slopes of Mount Velate, in a scenic location with stunning panoramic views on the pre-alpine lakes and the plains. The Via Sacra (Sacred Route) was built between 1604 and 1698, on the initiative of Capuchin father Giovanni Battista Aguggiari, who suggested the construction of a series of fourteen chapels that represented the sequence of the Rosary, in close relation with the pre-existing Marian Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Monte. Architect Giuseppe Bernascone, also known as "Il Mancino", designed the entire complex: the route, chapels, arches and fountains. The underlying unity and monumentality of his design made the complex the most coherent of all Sacri Monti from an architectural point of view. Many important artists from Lombardy worked at the Sacro Monte of Varese, such as the Morazzone, Francesco Silva, the Recchi brothers, Dionigi Bussola and Stefano Maria Legnani also known as "il Legnanino". In 1983, Italian artist Renato Guttuso painted a contemporary version of the Flight into Egypt on the outer wall of the chapel of the Nativity (no. 3). The upward cobblestone path ends in the small village of Santa Maria del Monte, that is characterized by its peculiar covered roads and the presence of the ancient monastery of the Romite Ambrosiane. Near the monastery it is also possible to visit the Baroffio Museum and the Pogliaghi House-Museum. A particularly evocative way to reach the Sacro Monte is through the funicular railway, built in 1909 and restored a few years ago.