Not far from Verona and the eastern coast of Lake Garda, hides the sanctuary Madonna della Corona, an incredible place that appears straight out of a fairy tale: a church on the mountain set in the rock above a very high cliff!
In this guide, I want to tell you how to get there and everything you need to know to plan your out-of-town trip to this magnificent corner of Italy! 🙂
“A magical and unthinkable place,
The kind that if you don’t see it you don’t believe it!
Nature, Architecture and Spirituality,
Here they merge into a unique experience!“.
A DESTINATION FOR PILGRIMS AND TOURISTS
Madonna della Corona (“Our Lady of the Crown” translated in English) is a shrine located in the Italian pre-Alps, between the Dolomites and the Po Valley.
The special feature of this small church, a destination increasingly visited by Italian and foreign tourists, is its picturesque and unusual location, set on the rock of Mount Baldo on the slopes of a very high cliff.
Let’s start right away by seeing exactly where the church is located, the paths to reach it, and the most beautiful corners to admire!
1. Where is Madonna della Corona and How to Get There?
The sanctuary Madonna della Corona (also known as “the church on the mountain”), is an incredible architectural masterpiece set in the rock between the small villages of Spiazzi and Brentino Belluno in the Veneto region of Italy.
The church can be easily reached in less than an hour’s drive from Verona, Garda and as well by going down the Brenner freeway from Trento/Rovereto.
If you’re passing through the area and have a half day to spare (visiting everything takes 2-3 hours) I recommend making room for this stop because it really is amazing!
1.1 HOW TO REACH THE SHRINE?
To reach the shrine of Madonna della Corona, you need to park your car in one of the neighboring towns (Spiazzi or Brentino) and walk one of the two paths leading to the church in the mountain.
1.2 THE PATH OF THE WAY OF THE CROSS
(STARTING FROM SPIAZZI – DIFFICULTY: EASY)
The easiest path to the shrine in the rock is from the village of Spiazzi, on the plateau above the church, down to the shrine.
This path, paved and about one kilometer long, descends from above with panoramic views and is called the “path of the cross.” The trail is moderately steep, but doable by anyone in normal physical condition. It takes about 20 minutes and is doable even with a stroller.
What gives the path its name, in fact, are 15 incredible bronze statues arranged all along the path, depicting the 15 stations of the Catholic Stations of the Cross (Jesus’ journey through death and resurrection).
We chose this path, and the experience was truly mystical: nature, the path of statues, and…music! Yes, you got it right: just music!
In fact, all along this path, during Mass hours, church songs, choirs and the sanctuary organ can be heard echoing all over the path.
We happened to be here just Sunday morning, and really I can tell you that the music makes theexperience even more unique and magical!
From April to September there is also an atv shuttle service (here are the schedules) with a platform for the disabled.
Statues of the Way of the Cross Trail (Spiazzi)
1.2 THE PATH OF HOPE (OR “OF THE PILGRIMS”)
(STARTING FROM BRENTINO – DIFFICULTY: DIFFICULT)
If you love trekking and want to experience the thrill of a real pilgrimage, the Path of Hope is probably the one for you!
This path, about 2km long, was the only access to the shrine for centuries, used by monks and pilgrims.
The route, which starts from Brentino at the bottom of the Adige Valley, is incredibly scenic and a true ascent to the sky.
What makes the trail arduous (it takes about an hour and a half to walk it) is not so much its length, but its elevation gain.
In fact, the pilgrims’ path is an ascent of over 600 meters of elevation gain and 1760 steps (!!).
Therefore, to walk it, it is important to wear comfortable shoes and have well-trained calves 😉
2. Brief History of the Church on the Mountain (to Visit it with Other Eyes!).
The oldest documents attest to the stable presence of Hermit Monks who inhabited the caves inside in the ridge of Mount Baldo as early as the beginning of the 12th century AD.
Traces of the first church built into the rock, however, date back to the 1400s. The location of the church, chosen by local monks and clergymen of the time, appears to have been chosen to symbolize the rejection of the Holy Roman Empire and its doctrines (including military: “what can be “sacred” about an “empire”?).
Since 1400, the church was restored and enlarged several times. The last of these was in 1975 when the aisles were increased from one to three, and the entire structure of the church was renovated, but leaving the 19th-century facade intact.
The church was visited by several popes, and is to this day one of the most picturesque and incredible churches in the world!
3. Sanctuary Madonna della Corona: What to Visit?
The shrine is actually not just the church, but is a complex composed of several points of interest.
Below, I briefly show you the most striking views to admire and photograph.
3.1 THE STAIRCASE TO THE CHURCH
The stairway to the sanctuary is an extremely impressive sight.
In total, there are 58 steps, which are quite steep. As you climb up, you can admire the church in the rock from an incredible perspective, and one really wonders who came up with the idea to build such an architectural work (and how they did it!).
3.2 THE INTERIOR OF THE CHURCH
The interior of the church, which can be visited free of charge, is what you don’t expect: two out of four walls are the rock itself and give the impression that the church is really gathered in the belly of Mother Nature.
The left aisle and the back of the church behind the altar, were in fact dug into the rock (and, from what a friendly local guide told us, are always under constant “extraordinary maintenance”😉 ).
The two side aisles are more recent (created in 1975 when the area of the church changed from 200sqm to 600sqm to make room for the increased influx of pilgrims), while the central one is several centuries old.
At the bottom of the church at the top is the most important statue in the entire shrine: a statue of the grieving Mary holding in her hands her son deposed from the cross.
This statue, was commissioned more than 500 years ago (in 1432) by Castelbarco, patron and Count of Rovereto.
If you are interested in more information about Masses, events, and pilgrimages to the church, I recommend browsing the official website of the sanctuary.
3.3 THE PANORAMA SEEN FROM THE CHURCH
From the balconies of the church and the scenic garden immediately below, you can see the sheer precipice and part of the Adige Valley. It is a lovely and spiritual place to unplug and reflect.
The place is always quiet and peaceful except during mass when the whole valley is filled with church songs, choirs and the ringing of bells.
3.4 SILENCE ZONE AND HERMIT’S TOMB
Underneath the sanctuary, there are some very special rooms, a solemn place and perhaps not for everyone, but one that I would definitely recommend you visit.
On the walls of these rooms, there are sacred statues, messages from pilgrims addressed to God and… photos (many photos!) of faces of the dead.
It’s hard to explain: on so many walls are passport photos and pictures of the lives of people who are no longer there. Some with birth and death dates. Some with messages. All their faces are there, looking at you, watching you, side by side.
Personally, for me going through those rooms was a powerful experience.
It is something that opens you up and leaves you naked, defenseless. You cannot remain indifferent to it.
To observe in the eyes of so many people the life that was and is no longer there (or perhaps still living in the heavens, as the phrases his walls say “your son lives”), is something impressive that sparks thoughts that are hard to explain.
Existential angst, sadness, happiness, fear, amazement, tenderness, love… visiting this part of the sanctuary is a journey into emotions and life that surely transcends the religious beliefs of the observer.
4. When to Visit the Sanctuary? My advice…
The shrine can be visited year-round, and any time is good to visit the church on the mountain.
That said, I would personally recommend that you get to and visit the shrine of Madonna della Corona (Our Lady of the Crown) during mass services (thus, on a Sunday morning between 9:30 a.m. and noon).
In fact, during the mass, songs and music from the sanctuary can be heard all along the paths.
Visiting such a spiritual and fascinating place accompanied by sacred music is something exciting, regardless of one’s beliefs.
5. Visiting the Church on the Mountain by Campervan
If you want to visit the church of Madonna della Corona by Campervan (as we did), I want to leave some useful information here.
If you don’t want to climb the 1760 steps, you can park in Spiazzi (the small village on the plateau above the church).
Recently, no-RV parking signs have been posted in almost every parking lot in the village.
Theonly remaining free parking lot (pictured) is in the lower part of the village (however, a few hundred meters from the start of the Via Crucis trail).
The view of the valley is spectacular, and at night the village is extremely quiet (there are only 2-3 restaurants in all).
There are only 3-4 fairly level pitches, while the others are sloping.
If you plan to arrive by RV during the warm season, I recommend arriving early so you can secure a spot.
6. Visiting the Shrine on the Mountain of Madonna della Corona – Conclusion.
The sanctuary on the mountain of Madonna della Corona is definitely a magical, unusual, and special place worth visiting if you are traveling around Verona, Rovereto, or the east coast of Garda.
Nature, peace and spirituality meet here in a harmonious atmosphere that makes the visit very pleasant.
In a couple of hours, it is indeed possible to visit the entire church on the mountain and take home memories of a one-of-a-kind experience .
And you, have you ever visited the shrine of Madonna della Corona before? What path did you choose? Do you have any advice you would like to leave for future travelers or pleasure in sharing your experience?
Let me know in the comments below! 🙂
As always, thank you for reading, and I wish you much happiness and good path 😀 See you in the next article! 🙂
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