A trip to Piemonte following an ‘itinerary of faith’ can be relaxing as well as meditative. But there is not only one way in which one is able to do this: depending on one’s destination and on the religious order, convents and monasteries offer various kinds of spiritual programme as well as hospitality. In this case the two go together and deciding where to spend the night can help to decide what kind of retreat one wishes to follow.
As first base, the retreat house in the Basilica of Superga in Turin is the best. Here one can immerse oneself in meditation both in the silence and the beauty of the countryside visible from the hill of Superga as well as in the Basilica. The Friars ‘Servants of Mary’ receive both visitors and pilgrims.
The nearby Sacra di San Michele (Monastery of St. Michael), in Val di Susa, inspires one to mysticism in this natural setting. One can stay in the monastery, open to only a few people on spiritual retreat at a time; in comparison to Superga, the prayerful element dominates. The buildings emerge directly from the cliff of Mt. Pirchirano, representing the faith in the Archangel, who as prince of the heavenly armies, dominates these vertiginous heights.
Alternatively without actually going on a retreat, one can enjoy the mixture of faith and scenic mountain views by embarking on itinerary that leads one along this ‘sacred way’, marked by piety, art and history, to buildings dating from 998 A.D. to the XIIIth century. It is sufficient to establish base in a nearby sanctuary, like that of Oropa or the Sacred Mount of Crea. They are ideal starting points for a more flexible itinerary among these historiacal and sacred sites because nightly stopovers and meals do not need to take place in the monasteries themselves. The pilgrimage is thus not at the behest of the monastery but is developed by the traveller who combines spiritual needs with other specific aims.
The spirituality of each site lends itself to the individual’s outlook, or cultic devotion. Oropa and Crea are Marian sites tied to St. Eusebius (Bishop of Vercelli in the IVth century A.D.), to whom the two statues of the “Madonna Bruna” (360-369 A.D.) dedicated to the Virgin are retraceable. Oropa joins the devotion to Mary Immaculate with three sixteenth century hospices and a meteorological observatory. Crea is tied to the Mysteries of the Rosary, which one can discover through the guided tour in its natural park and in the chapels on the sacred mount.