Visit Sacro Monte di Oropa
The Oropa Sanctuary (Italian: Santuaria d'Oropa) is found near Biella in the northern part of Piedmont, about 80 kilometres north-east of Turin.
It is a very important Italian pilgrimage destination with a reputation for providing relief to the sick and also now a UNESCO listed heritage site. More than 800,000 pilgrims visit Oropa each year.
Visiting the Oropa Sanctuary
It is said that a religious settlement has existed here since the 4th century, with the first church constructed in the 13th century.
The sanctuary includes a substantial church and other buildings that together form an attractive ensemble, enhanced by a peaceful setting in in a partially wooded valley.
The main complex combines various styles of architecture of the 17th - 19th centuries, with baroque and neo-classical among them, and holds many artistic treasures from the same period, many of which can be seen in the museum-gallery on site.
The statue of the Black Madonna, brought to the Santuaria dOropa by the founder of the sanctuary in the 14th century, is kept in the church, in a chapel that predates the current (17th century) church by several centuries.
Other highlights at the Oropa sanctuary include the Royal Gate and Royal Apartments, while to the rear is a second, 19th-20th century church.
The grounds around the sanctuary contain 19 chapels, twelve of which lead up the hill and depict scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary using paintings, frescoes, sculptures and other devotional works of art.
There are also extensive botanical gardens to explore, and easy access to trails that explore the surrounding countryside.
You can also take the cable car up the mountain to a refuge, for some fine views and some good walks e.g. to Lake Mucrone, or further up the mountain to Mount Camino.
Note: the Oropa sanctuary also offers extensive accommodation options - see Oropa accommodation for details - and various restaurants, giftshops etc.