Discovering religious art in the Locarno area

A circular tour lasting three days, combining hiking and the incredible sacred heritage of our region.

D1 - Orselina, Maggia & Loco: The first stop is the Sacred Mount Madonna del Sasso in Orselina, reached on foot or by cable car. This famous architectural complex dominates the city of Locarno and is a true masterpiece in its own right. It also houses several important works of art from different periods. The Sacred Mount consists of a magnificent basilica, an adjoining Franciscan monastery, a Via Crucis and the Church of the Annunciation. It is said that, in 1480, the Virgin Mary appeared on the rocky outcrop where the Sanctuary now stands.

The fifteenth century statue of the Madonna del Sasso is now held in the basilica, alongside many votive offerings.The church houses two fine works, one by Bramantino (16th century) and another by Antonio Ciseri (19th century).  See the official website for further details. Return to Locarno and take public transport to Maggia (or use the bike sharing service). Well worth visiting for cultural purposes is the Church of Madonna delle Grazie with its rich collection of sixteenth century frescoes. There are also many votive offerings, including some by the artist Giovanni Antonio Vanoni. You might now wish to stretch your legs a bit and so we suggest hiking through the mountains to your next destination. The route is not particularly difficult. Just make sure you have the right footwear and plenty of energy. Allow about 5 hours to reach Loco, the ancient capital town of the Valle Onsernone. Not just an attractive place to visit, it also boasts some considerable artistic heritage. The imposing baroque Church of San Remigio is just one example. Inside are several fine seventeenth century paintings. You spend the night in Loco, so take the rest of the day to relax and wander around the village.

D2 - Loco, Intragna & Palagnedra: The next day, you may wish to make a quick detour and visit Comologno. It is certainly worth it. Just 30 minutes away by postbus, do visit the seventeenth century Parish Church of San Giovanni Battista, as it contains many interesting works by various artists dating from the 1400s to the 1600s.

The Via Crucis (stations of the cross) leading up to the church is particularly fine, set against the marvellous backdrop of the Onsernone Valley. Back in Loco, you continue the tour by heading for the Centovalli. This takes you along one of the most interesting and culturally significant routes in the area: the Via delle Vose, a former mule-track that was once the main link between the Onsernone and Centovalli valleys. This historic route is easy to travel along and lets you reach Intragna in roughly 2 hours. From there you take the scenic railway to Palagnedra, the station being just a short walk from the village.

D3 - Palagnedra, Rasa & Brissago: Before continuing with the tour, take the time to visit the Church of San Michele. This religious building is of national importance and contains several works of art from the fifteenth century, including a series of frescoes by the renowned artist Antonio da Tradate.

You now follow the signs to Bordei, Terra Vecchia and Rasa, climb up to the Pizzo Leone and then drop down towards the lake before reaching the Sacro Monte of Brissago (roughly 6 hours hiking). The Sacro Monte di Brissago complex too is of great cultural importance: the Sanctuary, the Via Crucis and the Calvary date from the eighteenth century and have recently been restored, so can now be seen in all their glory. The complex is currently awaiting recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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