Italy is one of the most visited country in the world. It has many important cultural places, gorgeous landscapes, beautiful beaches, good food, but it has also many places linked to the Catholic religion and the Catholic tradition.
Each year several tourists come to Italy specifically to visit important religious destinations.
In this article I’m going to talk about two of the most important Italian pilgrimage destinations you should see – except the Vatican and the Shroud of Turin, obviously.
SAINT PIO CHURCH
Among all the pilgrimage destinations in Italy, Saint Pio church is a must-to-see.
Saint Pio church is a church in San Giovanni Rotondo, Apulia. It was designed by the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano and it’s located near the Italian hospital and research center founded by Saint Pio himself.
The church can easily accommodate 6,500 people and it’s one of the most famous Italian pilgrimage destinations.
In fact, this church hosts the relicts of Saint Pio.
But who was this Italian Saint?
Pio was born Francesco Forgione in 1887. At the age of five, he had already decided that he would have devoted his life to God.
During his childhood he already had the ability to see and speak with Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Then, during his adolescence he also started to experience ecstasies.
He entered the novitiate of the Capuchin friars at the age of 15. After some time, he took the Franciscan habit and the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He chose the name Pio.
In 1918 stigmata started to appear on Pio’s body. It seems that the blood flowing from these wounds smelled of flowers. Pio lived with the stigmata until his death.
The news about Pio’s visions and stigmata soon spread all over Italy. His wounds were studied by many doctors and physicians but no one seemed to be able to explain what was causing them and why they never became infected.
People who were close to him said that Pio manifested also inexplicable abilities such as healing, prophecy, bilocation, levitation, and that he also did some miracles.
Pio died in 1968 in his cell in San Giovanni Rotondo. When he died stigmata disappeared, leaving no scar.
His remains are now hosted in the golden Cripta in the church of Saint Pio.
The story of Saint Pio was also told in a beautiful Italian movie Padre Pio.
BASILICA DELLA SANTA CASA
Basilica della Santa casa is one of the most important pilgrimage destinations in Italy.
It’s located in Loreto, in the Marche region. The basilica has a gothic structure and a high campanile – 75 meters.
Inside, you can see many mosaics, statues, frescoes and beautiful intarsias.
Despite its beauty the Basilica is especially known for hosting the house in which the Virgin Mary has lived.
The house is small and entirely made of terracotta bricks, with no roof.
Around the house there’s a marble screen designed by Bramante. This screen is enriched with many sculptures that represent the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Nativity of the Virgin Mary and the arrival of the Santa casa in Loreto.
But how is it possible that the house in which the Virgin Mary has lived is in Italy?
Unfortunately, the real story is unknown, but there’s a legend explaining this strange fact.
The legend says that when the house of the Virgin Mary was threatened by the Turks, four angels took it and moved it from Palestine to Tersatto, in Croatia. It was 1291. During that period, it seems that in that city many miracles happened.
Then, in 1294, the angels decided to move it to Recanati, in Italy. And a year later it was definitely moved to the actual position.
Did you already know these two Italian pilgrimage destinations? Have you already visited them? Did you like them?
Original image by Massimo Roselli