Colossus of St. Charles Borromeo, Arona, Italy

The Colossus of St. Charles Borromeo (said Sancarlone) is a statue of over 30 meters high located in Arona on the Sacro Monte of San Carlo, considered a symbol of the city. San Carlo Borromeo was born on October, 2nd, 1538 in Rocca di Arona and in 1565 he became archbishop of Milan and he gave material and spiritual assistance especially during calamities such as famine and plague. He died in 1584 and was beatified in 1602 and canonized in 1610. In 1624 the works for the construction of a sacred hill and also a huge statue visible from Lake Maggiore which celebrates the memory of the saint, were started. It was designed by Giovanni Battista Crespi and was built with copper sheets hammered and assembled with nails and iron rods while the head and hands were made of bronze; being Bernardo Falconi of Bissone and Siro Zanella of Pavia, the sculptors. In 1698 it was finished and blessed. The statue is 23.40 meters tall, but it has a granite pedestal of 11.70 meters which make it one of the largest statues in the world and the monument can be visited inside. With this statue they wanted to represent the “gigantism in faith.”

Tips

The statue is open to the public, you can climb through a first spiral staircase and then another right as a stepladder to get inside the head of St. Charles. You can pay general access to get to the foot of the statue and enjoy a beautiful panoramic view that it is really worth or add a few euros to go up to the interior top. For children under 6 it’s free.
From Milan you can reach Arona by train on the Milan-Domodossola line.
If you have to wait a few hours to catch a plane, it is a good opportunity to go to know the statue because Malpensa airport is located only 23 km from Arona.

Estensi Gardens, Varese, Lombardy, Italy

The gardens of Estense Palace, more known as Estensi Gardens,  in Varese, are among the most beautiful in Northern Italy and constitute one of the main tourist attractions of the city. The gardens are located around the Estense Palace which was the summer residence of Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena and the Austrian Governor of Lombardy, Commander of the imperial troops in Italy. On the site where today stands the Estense Palace existed a villa, Thomas Orrigoni’ Villa; in 1765 the Duke Francesco bought it and had it restored to serve as a residence. The architect Giuseppe Antonio Bianchi made even the splendid garden. The gardens have a large tub that opens in the parterre in front of the Palace and several large flowerbeds, whose small shrubs and ornamental flowers are treated in detail. The presence of different reliefs, avenues, paths and lawns gives movement to the French-style garden. A symmetry axis, passing through the centre of the porch entrance, connects optically palace entrance-parterre-hill starting at a large outdoor area. Today this building has the Council’s offices of the city of Varese.

Tips

The garden is a landmark of the city and are open daily and the access is free.
Generally on Saturdays, the municipality celebrates weddings in the morning until noon so you can find more people than usual. If you go to take photos, it is better to choose a day other than Saturday or Sunday.
If you want to have the best view, climb all the stairs of the garden up top and you could also take photos of the building with the magnificent gardens and pre-Alpine mountains with the Lake of Varese. It’s really is beautiful landscape.

The hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, Leggiuno, Varese, Italy

The hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso is a monastery built overlooking the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore in Leggiuno, Varese. The construction of the complex is from the twelfth century; Alberto Besozzi of Arolo, dealer and lender, survivor of a shipwreck during a lake crossing, vowed to St. Catherine of Alexandria to settle there for the rest of his life in prayer and solitude in a cave on this stretch of coast. He built a chapel to the saint that we can still see at the back of the church. The relics of Blessed Albert, are inside the church. In the fourteenth century there was the construction of two churches dedicated to St Mary and San Nicolas, which were added to the complex. On the church’s facade, we find four arches that are the remains of a fresco cycle and, seen from the lake, there is the bell tower of the fourteenth century. The oldest part is the chapel from 1195, located at a lower level compared to other parts of the church, which took the size of the tomb of St. Catherine in the Sinai and on the outside, near the window there are some pictures of the transfer of the body of the saint (by the angels) at Mount Sinai. The complex is considered a national monument since 1914. It was restored and reopened in eighty years. It is currently supported by some Benedictine Oblates. The present church has five parts, initially separated, are now they’re four chapels, while the fifth is the chapel where lies Alberto Besozzi. The church is covered with many beautiful frescoes. There is also an organ and a statue of the Virgin and Child (seventeenth century). The hermitage is accessible by foot through a staircase that connects the Quicchio on one side, small group of houses, with parking for cars and a place to eat something, with the other, recently completed, that gives service from the navigation of Lago Maggiore.

Tips

If you can not take the stairs, there is a lift ($), built into the rock, which brings you to the church.
The place is very nice for a walk and to take wonderful photos of its beautiful surroundings.
In summer, there is a direct bus from Laveno. The nearest train station is Sangiano on the Luino-Milan line (3km). You can also reach the place with the lake navigation service.