Sacro Monte di Varallo

Point of interest
UNESCO sites

sACRO monte di varallo

The Sacro Monte monumental complex is an integral part of the Special Nature Reserve established in 1980 by the Piedmont Region. Rising 608 m above sea level, on a rocky elevation that dominates Varallo, it offers highly suggestive views not only of the city but of all Valsesia.

Sacro Monte can be reached on foot by following a twenty-minute uphill route that starts from the centre of Varallo and ideally represents the route of Jesus’ ascent to Calvary. It can be reached by car via the carriage road from the Crosa hamlet in Varallo, but you can also take the funicular, which reopened in 2003 after renovation works.

It is the oldest of the sacred Italian mountains. Created in 1491 based on the idea of Bernardino Caimi, it has been the model inspiring other such complexes that later sprang up along the Alpine range. Returning from a trip to Palestine, the Franciscan friar Caimi thought of reproducing those sacred places in Varallo, reviving the memory of Christ’s Life and Passion. Thus a “New Jerusalem” arose in the heart of Valsesia for the benefit of the faithful who could not travel to the Holy Land, which was under Turkish rule at the time. Pilgrims can relive the events of the Gospel with awe and emotional involvement in the backdrop of the mountains.

The sacred representation is staged by 800 life-size wooden and polychrome terracotta statues and more than 4,000 frescoed figures, and takes place in 44 chapels, either isolated or inserted into more articulated architecture, and a Basilica.

The itinerary between the chapels is divided into two distinct parts. Indeed, the first, from chapel no. 1 (Adam and Eve) to no. 19 (Entrance of Christ into Jerusalem), occupies the hardest area of the park to access, and is completely immersed in the vegetation of the Reserve; the second covers the summit of the Mount. Accessible through the Golden Gate, it is organised like a city with buildings, porticoes, Temple and Tribunal squares, chapels recounting episodes in the life of Christ that took place within the walls of Jerusalem (Last Supper, Sepulchre, Resurrection, Assumption of Mary). The Basilica of the Assumption, at the centre of the sacred complex, is the pilgrim’s ideal target.

Each chapel depicts an episode from the life or Passion of Jesus. Complex settings have been created with frescoes and groups of life-size, powerfully expressive wooden or painted terracotta statues, fully resembling human figures, with actual beards and hair. Renowned artists work there, not only locals. The figure of Gaudenzio Ferrari (1471/75 – 1546) stands out among all others. A Valsesian painter, sculptor and architect, he worked at the site from 1499, the year of the death of its founding father Caimi, to 1529, when he moved to Vercelli. He conceived and implemented the scenes of the Nativity, the Arrival of the Magi, the Crucifixion and the Pietà. After his departure, we find Lanino, Luini, the architect Galeazzo Alessi, the sculptors Tabacchetti and Giovanni d’Errico, and the painters Morazzone, Tanzio, Rocca, Gherardini and Gianoli; they all took part in the renovation of the complex from the mid-16th century onwards.

The Basilica, dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, was built from 1814 onwards with the façade by Giovanni Cerutti and the high altar by Benedetto Alfieri.

The Sacro Monte of Varallo has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2003.

The ascent to Sacro Monte takes 80 seconds. The cable car service may be suspended in bad weather.

cable car service

Via Gaudenzio Ferrari, 13019 Varallo VC

0163 564391

Return ticket € 5.00 One way € 3.00
For groups: Return € 4.00 (1 free ticket every 20 persons)
Children: free ticket up to 6 years
Baggage transport € 0.50

WINTER From 02/11 to 31/03: open Saturdays, Sundays, public holidays. Christmas period: from 24/12 to 06/01: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm with journeys every 15 minutes

SUMMER 2 – 3 April and from 9 April open daily: 9.00 am – 6.00 pm; Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays 9.00 am – 7.00 pm


* Buses do not normally go up to Sacro Monte;
* Buses whose passengers will lunch or dine in any of Varallo’s restaurants, displaying a copy of the meal reservation sheet on the dashboard and parking at the third forecourt, may access the site only if previously authorised by the Varallo Municipal Police Headquarters (tel. 0039 0163 562727) upon payment of € 150.00;
* Buses whose passengers will be staying in Sacro Monte hotels may access the site, subject to payment of € 50.00, by displaying a copy of the hotel reservation sheet on the dashboard and parking in the third forecourt.

* cars can go up to Sacro Monte

*parking stalls in the wide area before Testori square are free of charge
*parking stalls in the three forecourts (excluding the indoor parking spaces, which remain at the disposal of the Reserve) are regulated by 0-24-hour parking meters.
*no paid parking spaces are reserved for hotel employees or customers; instead, only “parking permits” are granted free of charge or against payment to be used in paid parking spaces found free. The fee for these parking permits, to be requested from the Municipal Police Headquarters, is established at € 50.00 per year.

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