Next on the docket is another hike UP through the woods and in keeping with the spiritual theme of the day our destination is Sacro Monte – a group of 21 chapels built between the end of the 16th and the end of the 18th centuries dedicated to St Francis of Assisi. The park is hushed and sombre – as if knowing, the sun slipped behind clouds so no beams brightened the paths – it was a perfect setting:
Actually found some STEPS GOING DOWN! (initially).
Even the buildings and statues proclaimed this a special place from another time:
All was peaceful and quiet and contemplative – and then we came to the last chapel – I will let you see the interior first before commenting – so you can have an unbiased first reaction:
These are NOT paintings – they are life-size terra-cotta figures sculpted to depict Pope Gregory IX giving the Franciscan Father General a Papal Bull of canonization while cardinals, bishops and ambassadors of kings and princes look on.
The entranceway to the chapel was dark and so it was initially hard to see but when I focussed I almost backed out thinking I was interrupting an actual religious service – that’s my shadow in the foreground of the last picture. These figures were so lifelike, so well-formed that at any moment I expected them to start moving and speaking – and that frankly creeped me out.
By this time the weather has gotten very inclement and we still had a number of miles to go before reaching the restaurant for lunch. A few very stalwart members of our party decided to hike on down, but considering the steepness of the incline and the slippery nature of the wet leaves and stones – I was happy to be offered any type of alternative. I never expected this to be my transportation salvation:
We got to the Ristorante Olina Orta San Giulio within minutes and relatively dry. The hiking group arrived somewhat later, bedraggled and wet – but was cheered immediately by copious amounts of wine and this setting:
To cap off a very full day and to continue with the much more festive mood we were now in – our guide Giampiero had us laughing and gasping at his “lecture” on the important hand and facial gestures needed to converse properly with an Italian. Unfortunately my video of this didn’t make the transition to the states – so I will leave you to imagine what was said and done
I did find this online that may help you imagine our fun – Francesco was doubled over at one point with laughter. Giampiero was much more animated than the figures below (NB: there are some vulgarities):
Giampiero was so MUCH better in person – did I mention that he is an actor and has been in many movies? A matinée idol for sure!!
More adventures to come. Stay Tuned! CIAO!