The Pilgrims’ Trail is a wide, cobbled path up to the Shrine of Santa Maria del Monte. It is 2 kilometres long with fourteen chapels along the way dedicated to the mysteries of the Rosary (the 15th mystery can be seen in the Shrine).

The works for the construction of the Chapels Trail started in November 1604, although the Fabbrica del Santissimo Rosario (the organisation that supervised its construction) was established on 25th March 1605. The Pilgrims’ Trail, which was set up by Giambattista Aguggiari, a Capuchin friar, allowed pilgrims to follow a clearer path than the previous, more challenging road. Besides easing the strain, it also provided religious exercise: pilgrims could recite the Rosary and meditate the stations of the cross of each passing chapel. In this borderland, the Sacro Monte of Varese contributed to highlight the importance of praying using the Rosary as a peace tool against the protestant reformation. Just as in the past, it features a complex of outstanding beauty, where the sacred is represented by images with a highly didactic function.

A journey through faith, prayer and meditation but also through history, art and nature which make up a unique place where beauty spreads its educational value.

The chapels were designed by the eminent architect Giuseppe Bernascone from Varese according to different models which make each chapel unique and blend harmoniously with the surrounding nature. Chapels are filled with dioramas made of polychrome terracotta by Francesco Silva, who carved the sculptures of ten chapels, Dionigi Bussola, Cristoforo and Marco Antonio Prestinari, Martino Retti, Carlo Antonio Buono. Frescoes, which provide a setting for dioramas by depicting large landscapes, interiors of churches, spectators to the event or narrative episodes, were painted by artists such as Pier Francesco Mazzucchelli called Morazzone (VII chapel, 1609), Giovan Paolo Ghianda (II chapel, 1624), Giovan Francesco and Giovan Battista Lampugnani (XII chapel, 1633), Giovan Battista and Giovan Paolo Recchi (VIII chapel, 1648; IX chapel, 1654), Carlo Francesco Nuvolone (III chapel, 1658; V chapel, 1650-52), Giovanni Ghisolfi (IV chapel, 1662), Antonio Busca (X chapel, 1668-71), Stefano Maria Legnani (XIV chapel, 1710 approximately).  

The visit continues with the Shrine and the Sacro Monte Crypt.