Santa Caterina del Sasso clings dramatically to the rocky cliff on the east side of Lake Maggiore.
The hermitage was founded in the 12th century by Alberto Besozzi, a wealthy local merchant. After surviving a brutal storm while crossing the lake, Besozzi decided to stay here and live out his life in peace.
Besozzi constructed a chapel, which forms the lower part of the church. Two other structures, San Nicola and Santa Maria Nova, were added in the 14th century. What we see today is all three cobbled together.
Dominican friars took residency from the 14th to 17th centuries.
In the 18th century, five boulders fell onto the church but stuck in the vault, sparing the structure from serious damage. The boulders were suspended there for two centuries.
The best and most dramatic way to arrive is via ferry. A steep path leads up to the south monastery.
An 18th century wine and olive press is displayed in a small courtyard.
Be sure to time your ferry right so you’re not stranded when the monastery closes for lunch! We caught the ferry from Stresa, directly across the lake.