Church of Santa Maria (the “Old Church”)

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How to get

By car: from the A26 motorway, exit at Arona in the direction of Stresa, or at Baveno in the direction of Arona. Once in Belgirate follow the signs up the hill to the church. Belgirate is 33 km from Malpensa airport.
By train: the nearest railway station is Belgirate (local trains only). The nearest station served by Intercity trains is Arona.


The pretty Church of Santa Maria (the “Old Church”) stands on a promontory above the town of Belgirate, and provides a spectacular view over Lake Maggiore and the surrounding mountains.

?The building’s origins go back to the 12th century; inside you can still see the foundations of the Romanesque apse and part of the perimeter wall. The external masonry is formed of blocks of serizzo granite cut in different sizes and put together in an irregular fashion, with occasional pieces of terracotta.

You go through a little garden to reach the graceful 17th century porch. Some traces of 15th century frescoes are still discernible on the façade. The interior has a number of 16th century frescoes, mostly portraits of saints; the most intriguing is that of Sant’Uguccione, to the right of the entrance, depicted in the act of cutting a cheese. Worth a mention is the Baroque high altar, in gilded inlaid wood and decorated with a superb frontal.

An informative panel inside the church illustrates its history and architecture through the centuries, and displays the results of the excavations and the latest research projects.

The intimate, evocative atmosphere of the Old Church lends itself to the performance of classical music, and concerts, including those of the Settimane Musicali di Stresa, are given here in summer. Santa Maria is also a very popular church for weddings throughout the year.