Why make the pilgrimage to the little Piemonte village of Vicoforte? To visit the Sanctuary no doubt. It’s an imposing site in a cleared flatland on the edge of town. It was like they said to the bulldozer guys, “clear lots, this is gonna be grand.”
And they did. The dome built for the basilica of Vicoforte built by Francesco Gallo was one of the largest and most complex ever made. It measured 118 by 82 feet, making 64,930 square feet for the fresco crew to paint upon (completed in 1752 by Mattia Bortoloni and Felice Biella). It remains the largest elliptical cupola in the world. And it only took Gallo five months start to finish. Painting it took 2 years.
But there is a history that starts before the dome was even built. The story in short form is that an errant shot by a hunter hit a pillar of the Virgin Mary in a shrine that happened to be very important to pilgrims, and he was so repentant that he put down his gun and raised money for the repair of the pillar. This prompted a tidal wave of interest in creating an enormous edifice and building of the sanctuary soon began.
To get the full details of the history, get a guided tour, offered during the season on Sundays from June to October, according to this page
If you can’t get a guided tour, there is a good brochure you can pick up at the Sanctuary.
But there’s perhaps another reason to come to this rather spectacular basilica in Vicoforte.
MILAN (Reuters) – The remains of Victor Emmanuel III, who reigned as Italy’s king through two world wars and died in exile in 1947, were flown back from Egypt on Sunday for reburial at a family mausoleum near Turin.
The family mausoleum is inside the Sanctuary of Vicoforte.
I hesitate to mention the third reason to come to Vicoforte. You can climb up to see the dome—and the city—from above. For that you’ll have to don a hard hat and some climbing gear. You can see how it goes in the video below (in Italian).
Here is information on going up into the dome, salita alla cupola in Italian. There is a tour of two hours, probably the one you want. The brief tours are one hour, Percorso breve.
You can fill out the contact form to reserve a place or you can call +39 3318490075.
If you arrive without a reservation, there is a ticket office building across from the sanctuary: Biglietteria Magnificat kalatà, Piazza Carlo Emanuele Ⅰ, 35. There are many places to get food and drink under the arcades.
How to get to Vicoforte
The train from Turin arrives at Mondavi, which is about 3. 5 miles (6 Km) from the Sanctuary. There is a bus from the train station that goes in the direction of San Michele Mondavi, making a stop in Vicoforte.
From Mondavi with a car, take the SS28 in the direction of Vicoforte.
A taxi from Mondavi will cost 12-14 euro and make the trip in 7 minutes. You can walk for a bit less than an hour and a half to arrive in Vicoforte.