The monumental steps

The grandest staircase of the prealpine region boasts 404 steps and features one of the most far-reaching views in the area. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same can be said about this masterpiece: the most important part was commissioned by Davide Fossati and took five years (1727-1732) and stretches between the only mule track to the current sacristy.

 

The grandest staircase of the prealpine region boasts 404 steps and features one of the most far-reaching views in the area. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same can be said about this masterpiece: the most important part was commissioned by Davide Fossati and took five years (1727-1732) and stretches between the only mule track to the current sacristy. The second part connects the first part of the steps to the Federal main road and was donated by master builder Giacomo Rossi and commissioned by Ticino statesman Stefano Franscini in 1842. Legend has it that Davide Fossati’s motives behind such a generous donation were a pledge made to the Virgin Mary in exchange for his recovery. Fossati had become rich and powerful thanks to his trade deals with Turkey and the Orient, at the time frequented by businessman from the Venetian Republic. He was taken by serious sickness and on the brink of death, prayed to be cured. Miraculously, he regained his health and returned to work he immediately commanded his engineer brother, Domenico Fossati, to complete the project, and hired building entrepreneurs Rossi and Isella. Chapels coast the path, and the buildings feature mural paintings from the 1940s by Pietro Chiesa, Ponziano Togni and Felice Filippini. Saint Theresa’s chapel also features a fresco by Emilio Maccagni. The two paintings by Pietro Chiesa are of particular interest: Nativity and Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. The steps were built and donated to the village authorities with the proviso they be well maintained, as can be seen in the inscription at the start of the steps. The most beautiful rocks were obtained from huge boulders found in the Arbostora plain, chiselled by 15 Viggiù craftsmen, and transported by rafts to the current location by local artisans. Today, 313 steps make up the Fossati part and 91 the Rossi part; all steps are 31 cm high and 2 m wide. Flowers, Mediterranean plants and rows of cypresses line the steps and, on the last step before the sacristy, climbers are rewarded by a splendid view.