The Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, a jewel near Varese

A (not so) popular Lake Maggiore Italy attraction.

18 Oct 2019

Gruppo UNA

This beautiful building is one of the jewels in the Italian crown, and located directly on Lake Maggiore. The Hermitage is perched high on the cliffs of Lago Maggiore overlooking the Borromeo Gulf and it's easily possible to climb a flight of steps to reach the attraction, or park in the car park just above the Hermitage and climb down the staircase. 

Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso

About the Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso.

The Hermitage was founded almost 1,000 years ago by Alberto Besozzi of Arolo (Leggiuno), who was shipwrecked in the area and vowed his devotion to St Caterina if he should be saved. In the year 1195, he built his isolated church in the rock face. However, the building that you will see today dates back to the 13th century when it was used as a monastery by the Augustinian order. The Oblate Benedictine Order run the Hermitage at the present time.

There are three buildings at the Hermitage, these are the Southern Convent, the Small Convent and the Church. 

Visitors to the Hermitage are always awestruck by the amazing views of the lake, its islands and the Borromeo Gulf, yet this ancient church and monastery also offer lots of art and history to appreciate.  

The Southern Convent was first built in the 1400s but then altered around 1620, it is accessed via a rounded archway from the courtyard. The Small Convent is constructed on top of the 13th-century walls of a previous building and highly embellished. You will be able to view the refectory and tour the monks' cells which are located on the first floor of the building. It is just possible to trace the remnants of a 16th century painted fresco above the windows of this building which depicts the "Martyrdom of St Catherine of Alexandria".

Visitors then move into the inner courtyard from which it's possible to access the church. The bell tower is absolutely breathtaking and has a sheer drop to Lake Maggiore below. 

When can I go to see the Sanctuary of Santa Caterina del Sasso?

During summer months the Hermitage is open every day and for longer periods of time. If you're bringing a party or group to the Hermitage, you do need to make a booking, and visitors will not be able to view the attraction if they just turn up at the gate. It is open from 9:00 am through to 6:00 pm daily from 15th June through to 15th September, and operates reduced opening hours during quieter periods of the year.

More Lake Maggiore recommendations from the Gruppo UNA experts

Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso

Best of Lake Maggiore attractions.

  • The splendid gardens and state apartments of Palazzo Borromeo which are located on the island Isola Bella.
  • Isola Madre is another popular visitor attraction and home to the beautiful Palazzo Madre and gardens.
  • A tour of the Borromean islands, taking in this spectacularly beautiful attraction to the full and viewing the decadent palaces and opulent lifestyle that was led by the aristocrats and royals back in the Renaissance era.

You'll discover that some of the finest views of Lake Maggiore and its surrounds can only be obtained by boat. So, if you have the time you should aim to take at least one boat trip while visiting this lovely area. Another way to enjoy the fresh mountain air and scenic views is to take the cable car from the town of Stresa to the top of Mount Mottarone. These superb views stretch all the way to the distant Alps, and an added highlight of the cable car trip is the opportunity to hop off for a while to tour the alpine gardens at Giardino Alpinia.

There are a variety of public beaches at Lake Maggiore, including Reno Beach, Fortino Beach and Cerro Beach. You can hire loungers and umbrellas during your visit, and will find a variety of restaurants and bars close by to ensure all your needs are met during your visit.

Where to stay near Lake Maggiore.

For guests looking for hotels near Varese in Italy, the 4-star hotel UNAHOTELS Varese is perfect for hosting meetings and events, or simply as a base for exploring the beautiful Lombardy region.