Eremo di Santa Caterina del Sasso Ballaro, Italy

The monastery is built into the rock itself, overhanging
Lake Maggiore, Italy

Just along the coast from Clare's complex, is Santa Caterina del Sasso Ballaro. This is a small monastery, dating from the 12th century, built on a rocky ledge in the face of the cliff. It is said to have been founded by one Alberto Besozzi, and dedicated to Saint Catherine of Egypt, after he survived a huge storm while crossing the lake.

The complex where Clare lives is on the right,
overlooking the lake

Here, you can see the distance between Clare's complex, on the left,
and the Hermitage on the right.

Unfortunately, the monastery is only accessible from the top of the cliff, so it involves a long climb up from our beach. Fortunately there is a lift down to the chapels, as the 240 uneven steps down the cliff face played havoc with my knees. As this is also the only route to catch the ferry across the lake, I can't avoid the 72 more steps that lead down to the port, so I save my knees for them.

Looking down onto the ferry station, from the monastery

Its solitary position, clinging to the face of the rock, gives an air of peace and serenity to Saint Catherine's Hermitage. It is easy to imagine many centuries of quiet meditation here. We entered the church to the sound of monks chanting, which promoted such a feeling of calm and tranquility, that I almost felt disembodied!

Clare, standing in the archway of the entrance gallery

David and Jessica walking along the entrance gallery, with
great views of the lake on the left.

There is a grotto outside the church, showing the
three kings bringing their gifts

Inside the church, lie the remains of Alberto Besozzi,
although now his hands and feet are made of wood

In one of the courtyards there is this ancient wooden 
olive press, dating from 1759.

Above the monastery, and on top of the mountain, is a
 great restaurant, where we often eat

This is a speciality of the house, a platter of hams and
cheeses to share between two. Delicious!

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