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devotion of the faithful, who are informed by an inscription on a tablet at the foot of these stairs, that they have been built in exact imitation of the Scala Santa, at St. John Lateran, in Rome. Some of the numerous devotees and pilgrims may always be seen crawling to heaven up these stairs, encouraged by a concession of plenaryndulgence granted by Pope Clement XII. to all who would climb these eight and twenty steps on their hands and knees, say an Ave, a Pater, and a Gloria on each step, and kiss each step devoutly!

This extraordinary place originated in the piety of the blessed (i. e. half saint) Bernardino Caimo, a noble Milanese, who obtained in 1486, from pope Innocent VIII, a faculty to found this sanctuary. Only 3 or 4 chapels were built in the time of the founder, but so great did its reputation for sanctity soon become, that princes and rich devotees contributed to its accomplishment, to the extent now observed. St. Carlo Boromeo twice visited it, in 1578 and 1584, and the pallet bedstead upon which this patron saint of Milan died, is preserved here as a holy relic for the adoration of the faithful.

The church is a handsome structure, and the cloisters, where the priests reside, are in a beautiful situation, commanding views of Varallo and the Val Sesia below the town. At the entrance to the immediate site of the Oratories, the priests have kindly established booths or shops for the sale of corone, i. e. crucifixes, madonnas, beads, etc., which have acquired sanctity, and the power, in some cases, of working miracles, by having touched the blessed bed of the holy St. Carlo, or other miracle-working relics possessed by the fraternity of the Nuovo Gerusalemme. The body is, however, provided for as well as the soul; and there are two booths within the sacred precincts for the sale of liquors, where the devotees may be generally seen preparing themselves for, or refreshing themselves after, the plenary indulgence at the Scala Santa, by plenary indulgence.

It is extraordinary that a place so remarkable, in a country so beautiful, should be so little known to English explorers of the picturesque by them the Val Sesia and its lateral valleys of the Mastellone, and the Sermenta the former leading by Fobello, the latter by Carcoforo, to Banio in the Val Anzasca are rarely visited.

No valleys in the Alps surpass these for the grandeur and beauty of the scenes which they present; none are more easy of access to Alpine tourists; a finer race of inhabitants is nowhere to be found, except perhaps in the neighbouring valley of Anzasca. The cantons of Switzerland do not offer greater varieties of costume, than are to be found in the different transversal valleys of the Sesia. And Varallo is far

enough in the heart of the country to be made head-quarters, whilst researches are to be made in its neighbourhood; and not an unimportant part of these agrémens, is the certainty of finding good quarters at the Gran Falcone, the chief albergo at Varallo, after the wanderings of a day or two in the mountains and valleys in its vicinity.

ROUTE 102.



To those who would make an excursion to Varallo, from Baveno and the Boromean Isles, a more beautiful route than that by Borgomaniera and the Val Sesia offers itself. Immediately above Bavenorises the mountain ridge, which divides the Lago Maggiore from the Lago d'Orta, and a mule path leads across it to the town of Orta. The views of the Italian lakes, the vast extent of the plains, and the glorious boundary of the Alps, apparently in close proximity, presented in this short transit, is scarcely, if at all, surpassed by the views from the Righi. On the ascent, the Lago Maggiore in all its length lies spread out, from Baveno to Magadino, and the view in this direction is only bounded by the Lepontian and Rhetian Alps. Towards the little lakes around Varese, and to the plains of Lombardy, the view is boundless. After crossing the ridge, the Alps, and Monte Rosa in all her magnificence, burst upon the observer; and beneath him lies, in the repose of its deep locality, the beautiful lake of Orta, offering a thousand picturesque sites, yet scarcely known to the traveller, though it is within 2 hours of the route of the Simplon, a course followed by crowds of pleasure-loving ramblers, who seek their highest enjoyment in scenes like these, yet pass unwittingly the loveliest.

Those who do not choose to go by the mountain to Orta, may visit it in a char by an excellent road; that, at Gravellona, a short distance from Baveno, turns up the valley of Strona, into which flows the Negolia, the river that carries off the waters of the lake of Orta, which issue from it at Omegna. The Negolia, after its confluence with the Strona, rushes across the route of the Simplon, and falls into the Toccia, near Cossegno.

The route from Baveno to Orta by the mountain is the shortest, but it occupies more time than the drive, which may be made by Omegna in 3 hours.

At Omegna a boat may be taken to go to delightfully situated on the borders ofthe lake, a good inn recommended by moderate charges.

Orta, a town where there is The facilities

in the neighbouring mountains and forests for shooting, and on the lake for fishing, offer most agreeable inducements for a short summer residence in this cool and delicious retirement. Yet this spot so delightful is scarcely known; the traveller into Italy gallops along the shores of the Lago Maggiore, unconscious that a day or two, devoted to visiting the Lake of Orta, and Varallo, would be remembered as the pleasantest he had ever spent.

Besides the rambles amidst the beautiful scenes around the lake, the bathing, boating, and fishing on it, to the list of the recommendations of Orta, as a place of short sojourn, may be added, that it is within one day's ride or drive of Milan, Turin, Como, Bellinzona, Varallo. Monte-Rosa, by the Val Sesia, or the Val Anzasca, and of the summit of the Simplon.

It was at one time contemplated, to continue the great route of the Simplon along the shores of the lake of Orta; this was the plan of General Chasseloup, but the difference of level between the lakes Maggiore and Orta, the latter being considerably higher, induced the adoption of the present line. Such a road is still, however, contemplated by the Sardinian government, as a decoy from the Simplon-route, to Turin, of which, numerous travellers would avail themselves, for the sake of the beautiful scenes they would enjoy in skirting the mountains of Piedmont in its course. It is by no means a difficult journey to make even now. A good road leads to Omegna, where a boat may be taken for Buccione at the upper end of the lake, 9 miles distant; here there is a good inn; post-horses may be obtained, and the journey continued to Borgomaniera. To go this way from Baveno to Omegna, to visit Orta, the Isola Giulio, and other objects and places on the lake, would not occupy more than 7 or 8 hours; and from Borgomaniera to Turin, is only a long day's drive.

The Isola di San Giulio is an object of singular beauty in the lake; it lies between Orta and Pella. The church and town of San Giulio surmount a rock that rises out of the deep lake; the bright buildings on it, contrast with the blue waters with a fairy-like effect. The church has high antiquity; it was built on a spot rendered sacred by the retreat of San Giulio, in the 4th century; here his ashes are preserved in a subterranean vault; and the vertebra of a monstrous serpent, said to have been destroyed by the saint, is shown as a relic; how this relic of a whale was brought to such a retired spot it is difficult to conjecture, but it serves for the tradition. The church is rich in the materials of its structure; some columns of porphyry, a mosaic pavement, and bas-reliefs.. There are vestiges on the island of ancient fortifications, used;

when Guilla, the wife of Berenger, the second king of Lombardy, took refuge here in 962, and defended it resolutely against Otho the First, emperor of Germany, who had invaded Italy, and deposed her husband. Otho restored the island to the bishops of Novara, who had long held it before it was seized by Berenger. The island gave a title to a dukedom as early as 590, when Minulfo, duke of San Giulio, held it; he favoured the descent of the Franks by the Saint Gothard, for which treachery he lost his head, by order of Astolpho, king of the Lombards.

Behind the town of Orta a hill rises on which there is a sanctuary, dedicated to Saint Francis of Assise over it are distributed 22 chapels or oratories, like those of Varallo. Some are elegant in their architecture; and they contain, as at Varallo, groups in terra cotta. The hill is laid out like a beautiful garden, a character which peculiarly belongs to the mountain slopes which surround this lake, and whence probably its name is derived. The views from the hill of the sanctuary are of singular beauty, comprising the lake, the proximate mountains covered with wood, villages which speckle the shores of the lake and the sides of the hills, and the whole surmounted by the Alps.

At Pella, the village on the shore near to the Isola Giulio, mules may be had for crossing the mountain of Colma to Varallo; and the ride is one of great interest, from the beautiful sites and views which it offers. A steep path leads up the mountain side to Arola, amidst the richest vegetation; vines, figs, gourds, and fruit trees, make the course a vast garden. Magnificent forest trees offer their shade, and the road in some places passes amidst precipices of granite in a state of decomposition, which offers an interesting study to the geologist; here, many of the specimens sold at Baveno are obtained. Above these granitic masses, the path continues through scenes resembling the most beautiful park scenery of England, and then opens upon the Col de Colma, a common, where a boundless scene is presented of the lakes of Orta, Varese, and the plains of Lombardy, and, towards the Alps, of Monte Rosa.

The descent on the other side, towards Varallo, is not less beautiful it lies through the Val Dugia, the birth-place, in 1484, of Gaudenzio Ferrari, the pupil of Raphael. The Val Sesia is seen in the deep distance, richly wooded and studded with churches and villages; the path leads down through pastoral scenes, which sometimes recall the most agreeable recollections of home to an English traveller; then changes almost suddenly to the deep gloom of a ravine, where there are quarries, formerly worked for the buildings of Varallo, buried in a forest of enormous walnut and chest

nut trees. Issuing from this wild spot, the traveller shortly finds himself in the Val Sesia at Rocco, about four miles from Varallo, See p. 321.

ROUTE 103.


The road usually taken is that which leads by the course of the Sesia to Vercelli, but this is flat and uninteresting, and descends to the riziéres, or rice grounds of Piedmont. A more pleasant route, especially since the completion of a new road to Biella, is one which crosses the Sesia and passes through the Canavais, a district celebrated for the quantity of hemp which it produces, and from which it derives its name. In the season it is singular to see the whole population engaged in stripping and otherwise preparing hemp; whether walking or sitting, alone, or in groups in the streets before their houses, all are thus occupied.

After crossing the Sesia, the traveller passes through Gattinara, a town where there is an excellent inn, the Albergo del Falcone. It is a great recommendation to excursions in Piedmont, that tolerable inns are to be found in most of the little towns, and in many, especially in a line of intercourse, they are really excellent. Some of the Italian antiquaries, and among them Denina, assert that the great battle of Marius and Catullus against the Cimbres was fought in the neighbourhood of Gattinara.

From Gattinara to Biella the route lies through Masarana and Cossata, and offers many beautiful views of the plains and the mountains as the road rises or falls over the undulating ground, which skirts the bases of the mountains that subside into the plains of Piedmont.

Biella, situated on the Cervo, one of the affluents of the Sesia, is 22 miles from Varallo, and about 12 from Romagnano. It contains a population of about 8000. It has some trifling manufactories of paper, common woollen goods, and hats. Its sanctuary of Notre dame d'Oropa is, however, an object of attraction, which brings crowds of visitors to offer their devotions to an image, one of the thousand dirty black specimens of bad carving, which, under the name of Our Lady, is worshipped for its miracle-working powers: that of Oropa is said to have been carved by Saint Luke, who is made a sculptor as well as a painter, and to have been brought by a St. Eusebius, from Syria, and preserved by him in the then wild and desert mountain of Oropa, near Biella.

The sanctuary of Mont Oropa is 6 miles distant, and the access to it, high up in the mountain, was formerly difficult,

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