For centuries a place devoted to silence and meditation, the Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona is built into a vertical cliff face on Mount Baldo at 774 meters above sea level, overlooking the Adige valley, surrounded by a ‘crown’ of mountains, in the province of Verona.
A pilgrimage destination since the Middle Ages, it was once only accessible through a narrow and dangerous path in the rock. Today, the sanctuary is reached via a scenic trail known as the Sentiero della Speranza (Path of Hope), and not just by the devotees, but also by hiking enthusiasts and anyone who wishes to see one of the most spectacular sanctuaries of Italy. The path is 2.5 km long and can be walked in about 2 hours.
The walk starts at the village of Brentino Belluno, where you’ll find a staircase that leads up to the woods. From there, a path with hairpin bends leads to a concrete cross (which coincides with the first station of the Via Crucis - there are 14 Stations of the Cross). Along the way, views over the Adige Valley are spectacular.
After a stretch of dirt road, you get to a steep staircase that zigzags up towards the church.
The route passes through a sort of hut among the rocks, the Grotta della Pietà, and reaches a scenic stone bridge, the Ponte del Tiglio; after crossing the bridge, a stunning view of the Sanctuary opens up.
In the 15th century, this was a hermitage; the first church was inaugurated in 1530. It became a sanctuary in 1625, originally known as Santa Maria di Montebaldo.
Its relative inaccessibility has preserved the site, which has remained almost intact until the 20th century.
In 1975, renovation work resulted in an expansion of the complex which was further excavated into the rock of the mountain: it was enlarged to 600 square meters.
Inside the Sanctuary is the Scala Santa, a reproduction of the staircase located in Rome near the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, supposedly the stairs Jesus walked the day he was crucified.
The sanctuary of the Madonna della Corona is the end of the so-called Cammino dei Due Santuari (Long-Distance Walk of the Two Sanctuaries), which begins at the sanctuary of the Pieve di Chiampo and crosses seven valleys of the Venetian Pre-Alps.
For the return, you follow a path to the town of Spiazzi, which you reach in about an hour.
The Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona is open year-round and can be reached by car or by bus.
For more information, visit the Santuario Madonna della Corona website.