Another great day out for us was an afternoon visit to Santa Caterina del Sasso. The Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, perched on its “balcony” overlooking the Borromeo Gulf, is one of the most intriguing historical sites on Lake Maggiore
The ferry trip from Stresa to Santa Caterina is only about 15 minutes but on this particular occasion we took the hydrofoil which was only about a 6 minute trip. As with all of the boat trips we had on Lago Maggiore, it was an interesting easy trip with the spectacular scenery along the way.
You can also reach the Hermitage by car, there is plenty of free parking up the top and then there are about 240 steps to walk down to the entrance of the hermitage or you can take the elevator.
We had spotted the hermitage while taking boat trips to other parts of Lago Maggiore and we were fascinated by what we could see from the lake but we sure were not prepared for the actual visit. This 12th Century Hermitage is a very peaceful and inspirational place perched on a rocky ridge. The buildings are all very well-preserved.
The hermitage was founded by the wealthy merchant, Alberto Besozzi in 1170. Whilst he was out in his boat one evening he was caught up in a storm and his boat capsized. He prayed to St Catherine to be saved and that if his prayers were answered, he would give all his money to the poor and retire to live as a hermit. His prayers were answered and so he went to live in a cave as a hermit. In 1195 he built a tiny, isolated church in recognition of his deliverance. The present buildings date from the late 13th – early 14th centuries. The Hermitage comprises three buildings: the southern convent, the small convent, and the church.
In recent years a modern elevator has been installed which allows the elderly or disabled to access the hermitage from the top or up to the road where there is a restaurant. The new lift, which can carry up to 12 people, is a real jewel of engineering. In fact, the space race was achieved by digging a well in the rock 6 feet in diameter, 51 meters deep and well-connected in a horizontal tunnel exit to the areas below 45 meters long which opens onto a panoramic view of Lake Maggiore.
The Hermitage is beautifully restored. You can see some common areas facing the lake, and a part of the church, with very old frescoes. If you are lucky enough you can hear prayers and singing of hymns.
This wine and olive press also has its own story.
It is beautiful, peaceful and the panorama from the Hermitage to the lake is exceptional.
This is another wonderful excursion for you when staying on Lago Maggiore.