Travel is all about making memories. And sometimes, the most memorable holiday experiences are the ones that are unexpected.
For example, I discovered the amazing Santuario Madonna della Corona (Sanctuary of the Lady of the Crown) entirely by chance. Yet it’s a place that I can still picture vividly in my mind.
Checking into my hotel in Garda, a town on the shores of Lake Garda in northern Italy, I spotted a poster displayed on the wall behind the reception desk.
Free tours throughout September, it promised. It seemed too good to be true, but it was exactly as claimed.
Showcasing the area
I learned that, each September, a group of local hotels get together with the tourist authority to showcase the area’s many attractions. In a wonderfully generous gesture, they lay on a choice of half-day guided tours completely free of charge to their guests.
And that’s where serendipity came into play.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t have chosen the day trip that wound its way up into the Monte Baldo above the lake, stopping en route at an Alpine cheese producer and then a church called the Santuario Madonna della Corona. But that was the only tour running during my stay that still had places vacant.
The church is a breathtaking sight. It dates back to the 16th century, and is built right into a vertical cliff face. From certain angles, it appears to be suspended in mid-air.
There is a bus service that will take you most of the way, but the best experience is to be had on foot. It takes half an hour or so to walk down the zig-zagging path, passing statues depicting the Stations of the Cross, and the views are stunning.
The special atmosphere of this place, and the achievement of the people who built it, will touch anyone. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate its magic.
It turned out to be one of the highlights of my Garda holiday, and I can thoroughly recommend it. The cheese factory visit was brilliant, too!
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