The Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso, perched on its “balcony” overlooking the Borromeo Gulf, is one of the most intriguing historical sites on Lake Maggiore. You reach it from the lake by climbing a flight of 80 steps, or you can descend the 240 steps from the car park above.
Picturesquely located on a sheer cliff above the water, the Hermitage was founded in the 12th century by the merchant Alberto Besozzi of Arolo (Leggiuno), who on being shipwrecked took refuge in a cave and vowed devotion to St Catherine. In 1195 he built a tiny, isolated church in recognition of his deliverance. The present buildings date from the late 13th – early 14th centuries.
In the 13th century the Hermitage was home to a community of Augustinian monks, followed in 1379 by the Ambrosian Hermits and in 1649 by the Carmelites. Today the monastery is run by a community of Oblate Benedictines.
The Hermitage comprises three buildings datable to the late 13th-early 14th centuries: the southern convent, the small convent, and the Church.