Relais del Maro

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Caravonica, Colle San Bartolomeo and Arzeno

Caravonica

This is the main town in the valley of the Trexenda stream, one of the affluents of the river Maro and which forms the Impero river. The ancient road rises up from Santo Lazzaro Reale, meeting the ruins of the church of San Michele near the cemetery. Perhaps a sign of the first settlement, it then carries on further up the slope, close to a stronghold.
The houses are squeezed in close to one another between the parish church and the oratory. There are aristocratic palazzos here, such as the one belonging to the counts of Thomatis, where the Sacra Sindone (the Holy Shroud) was hidden for four days by the Duchess Anna Maria of Savoy in her flight from Turin when besieged by the French (1706). The area is famous for its olives and vines. Here, dominating the road, lies the sanctuary of Madonna delle Vigne. In front of the building traces of the Piedmont road can be seen today. The sanctuary has a porch to shelter travellers and beyond the grille a sacred space opens up, decorated entirely with paintings and stuccoes, mainly from the eighteenth century. In front of the sanctuary is the “house of pilgrims”, built in 1653 following a vote.

Colle San Bartolomeo

From Caravonica, one climbs up to the little hamlet of San Bartolomeo, which gives its name to the pass above. The pass here was once also home to a chapel dedicated to San Bernardo. A compulsory stopping point, it is not by chance that the church of San Bartolomeo (17th century on the remains of the previous fifteenth-century building) had a chaplain of the order of the Cavalieri di San Giovanni (Knights of Saint John), today known as the Knights of Malta, whose mission was to take care of travellers and pilgrims.

Arzeno

A tiny hamlet, which takes its name from the dialect word for larch, arze. A settlement with a small church, with a “hanging” bell-tower, built in the late Medieval period. One passes underneath the structure to enter the sacristy with a wide view over the bottom of the valley. The De Thomatis lords would enter the church directly from their large palazzo. Inside the church, it was the De Thomatis family that preserved the chapel of Madonna del Rosario.

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