Oropa is a Catholic sanctuary nestled among
the Alps about a half hour outside the city. Take a bus and don’t worry
about those narrow stretches of road - you’ll make it. When you first
arrive, quench your thirst at the well just inside the ingress. Well, maybe
not quench, but a couple of sips shouldn’t hurt.
The sanctuary walls are lined with stories,
photos and illustrations depicting accounts of people reportedly receiving
help from the Virgin Mary. The most frequent are incidents from World War
II. Two churches keep the sanctuary active: a basilica that holds daily Mass
and La Chiesa Nuova, a huge cathedral. The basilica is home to a famous
statue in the region, “The Black Madonna,” so named for the color of wood
used to carve it. La Chiesa has an immense interior and, like most European
cathedrals, large paintings and ornate iconography.
If it’s winter, Oropa is a prime spot for downhill and cross-country skiing
as well as guided snowshoe tours. If the snow’s gone, several hiking trails
of varying difficulty branch out from the sanctuary. Mount Mucrone is the
highest point and offers simultaneous views into Switzerland and France. It
takes two to three hours to reach the summit if you’re following the trail,
which can disappear at times.
Once at the top, eat your packed lunch at the abandoned ski lift and, if you
like, venture across a plateau to a huge metallic cross that overlooks the
valley. A little advice: The weather can change quickly. A bright blue sunny
day can turn stormy in minutes.
If it’s springtime, you’re in for a treat. The way the mountain is situated
leaves one side exposed to the weaker rays of the sun. This means there’s
still snow on the backside. While this may cause some to descend the same
way they ascended, the adventurous will have a ball sliding their way down -
either on foot or stomach. Just watch out for exposed rocks.
From Sam Vicchrilli, "Two cities offer new
adventures close to Turin", Salt Lake Tribune, February 6, 2006