Have you ever heard of forest bathing? A dive into nature, an immersive experience among the colours of autumn foliage. Better still if it takes place in a spiritual and intense place like the Sacro Monte of Orta.
These days the Sacro Monte park is tinged with a thousand warm colours, cloaked in a soft blanket made of golden and reddish shades. This place of the soul, capable of instilling a light serenity at any time of the year, gives its best in Autumn, transforming itself into a fairytale setting. The lake sparkles as if by magic, caressed by the rays of the sun that descends behind Monte Rosa and the island shines, full of charm.
When its construction was decided, on the top of the hill in the center of the Orta promontory, those were dark times: Luther's reforms had created a deep rift in the Christian world and the Roman Church was trying to attract the faithful with some works that also had a purpose of religious education. The figure of Saint Francis was chosen for the Sacro Monte of Orta, to whom the twenty chapels of the devotional route are dedicated. Inside there are 376 life-size terracotta statues which illustrate the episodes in the life and miracles of the saint of Assisi: from the conception announced by an angel to the birth in a stable, from the choice of poverty to the temptations of the devil, passing through the numerous miracles attributed to him.
The construction works began in 1590 in the "Selva di San Nicolao", where a Romanesque church already stood, and continued in three distinct periods until 1788, resulting in the alternation of different decorative styles: from the Renaissance, sober and elegant, up to the most sumptuous baroque, then moving on to rococo and finally to neoclassical. The initial project was entrusted to the Capuchin father Cleto da Castelletto Ticino, while the works were rigorously monitored by Bishop Bescapè, a tenacious supporter of the Counter-Reformation.
But the artistic beauty of the chapels is also enhanced by a suggestive environmental setting: the sacred itinerary was designed from the beginning in harmony with the natural area that hosts it, which has now become a thirteen hectare reserve that slopes towards the lake. Rising up from the historic center of Orta, a wide avenue lined with hornbeams leads to the entrance arch which welcomes visitors and introduces them to the tree-lined path between the chapels, within a large park characterized by ornamental plants such as beech trees, lime trees and oaks . Hedges and boxwood and holly shrubs create areas of shade that encourage pilgrims to meditate, while suddenly spectacular panoramic views open onto the lake and quicken the heart.
While walking in the greenery of the park, you can try out real exercises recommended by wellness experts: listening to the creaking of the leaves, the rustle of the wind among the branches, the gurgling of flowing water. But you can also let yourself be enveloped by intense natural fragrances, such as the smell of wood and resin from the bark and the aroma of mushrooms and moss that rises from the undergrowth. And then breathe in the crisp air and welcome with your gaze the kaleidoscope of autumn colours that presents itself before us. Indescribable emotions that immerse us in nature, in a regenerating journey, far from the noise of our cities and reconnected with the most authentic part of ourselves.