How to get
A 17th century church and convent stand on top of Monte Mesma, a hill 576 m high above Ameno.
The single-nave church contains a crucifix by the sculptor Lentignani. The church square, graced by an ancient lime tree, offers a marvellous view over Lake Orta and to the Monte Rosa massif beyond.
A surfaced road goes to the top of the hill, but you can also reach the complex on foot by two Via Crucis (stations of the cross) paths with their characteristic frescoed chapels set in chestnut woods. Archaeological remains (notably burial grounds with grave goods) found here show that Monte Mesma was inhabited from the first Iron Age (7th-5th centuries BC). The little bridge across the Membra stream at the bottom of the hill dates from Roman times.
The convent with its 17th century sundials is a beautiful place with a palpable atmosphere of peace. The buildings stand around two graceful adjoining cloisters, in the second of which is a well that taps into a huge underground cistern and which is still in use. Visitors should see the former Chapterhouse (“Capitolo delle Colpe”, used for the correction of faults), the Refectory and the great Stove. The library contains over 5,000 books, many of them valuable, and none more so that one of the first printed editions (1477-78) of Dante’s Divine Comedy.
Designated a Special Nature Reserve by Piedmont Region in 1993, Monte Mesma attracts pilgrims and walkers alike. You can climb the hill using well signposted and maintained paths, on which at intervals panels provide historical and environmental information. Among the things of interest to be found in the woods is a blacksmith’s forge dating from the 18th century.
All the year