On the summit of Mount Berico, the south-west hill that dominates the city of Vicenza, stands the best known and most popular Venetian sanctuary dedicated to the cult of Our Lady. Its origins are linked to the appearance of the Blessed Virgin in these sites: the first time in 1426, the second time the following year, when Vicenza was facing a terrible plague. Tradition has it that on both appearances of Our Lady, a young girl was asked to be the spokeswoman for a request: the construction in that site of a Church dedicated to Her, with the promise of ending the plague. So it was. And from that time onwards, pilgrims from far afield began to visit.
The monumental complex is the result of two subsequent constructions, one gothic and one baroque. In front of the northern façade opens the Piazzale della Vittoria, a panoramic terrace from which to gaze towards the gentle landscape of the Berici hills.
There are two routes that lead to the Sanctuary of the Madonna of Mount Berico. Starting at the foot of the hill, you can choose to follow the path of the ‘porticos', a walk that boasts a great view of the city from above, through about 700 meters of uninterrupted porticos made of short terraces in the shape of small chapels, to symbolise the 15 mysteries and the Hail Marys of the Rosary. The monumental Arco delle Scalette, erected in honour of the Blessed Virgin in piazzale Fraccon in Vicenza, is instead the starting point of the picturesque stairway of 192 steps.
The Mount Berico complex conserves numerous works of art within. First of all is the famous "Feast of St. Gregory the Great" by Paolo Veronese, which can be admired inside the ancient refectory of the order of friars the Servants of Mary, custodians of the Sanctuary since the 13th century. The area above the ancient refectory hosts the museum that contains votive offerings from 1400 to 1900 and the historic-artistic heritage of the Sanctuary, such as period furniture, vestments and paraments.
How to get there: on foot, choosing one of the two itineraries, or by car following Viale Dante and going up Viale X Giugno, that leads to the Basilica. The Piazzale della Vittoria has good parking.
Don't miss: The wonderful Arco delle Scalette with the stairway of 192 steps
You can visit the museum in the area above the old refectory, which is home to the votive offers made from the 15th to the 20th century and the historical-artistic heritage of the Sanctuary, such as antique furniture, sacred furnishings and vestments.