High up above the town of Locarno, there is a sanctuary located on a forested cliff; Madonna del Sasso. Sasso means rock, so hopefully I won’t be struck down for translating it as Madonna on the Rocks.
The church was consecrated in the 19th century when a local monk, Brother Bartholomeo, claimed that the Madonna had appeared before him whilst walking in the woods.
You can reach the sanctuary either on foot, if you are feeling energetic, or there is a funicular railway that winds its way through the trees and delivers you at a very pleasant bar with terrace looking down on the church.
There are a number of sculpture groups in rooms surrounding the stairs on the way up to the main church, including one of the Last Supper. Inside the church are two impressive paintings, Flight to Egypt and the Transport of Christ.
And by the main door are a series of plaques pledging thanks to the Madonna for helping people in their daily lives. I’m not what you’d call religious but it certainly makes you think.
From the church, or to be precise, from the funicular, it is possible to catch a cable car higher up the mountain, and even a chair lift should you be determined to go higher to get a birds eye view of Lago Maggiore.
If you choose that option, wear sensible shoes and warm clothing, especially at this time of year. Of course, if you are only passing casually, there’s always the possibility of sitting on the restaurant terrace, sipping something on the rocks and trying to recreate Brother Bartholomeo’s vision…