Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard (Madonna della Guardia) is the most important Marian shrine in Liguria and one of the most important in Italy.
A destination for Sunday family outings, the sanctuary is located about 20 kilometres from the Ligurian capital, and having been built on the summit of Monte Figogna at an altitude of 804 metres, it can be admired in all its grandeur from several kilometres away.
Why is it called Lady of the Guard?
Lady of the Guard derives from the fact that the mountain on which the Sanctuary stands was, in the past, a strategic observation point for enemy armies and ships.
In fact, from the Sanctuary, you can admire a fabulous panorama over the city of Genoa as far as its Rivieras.
Today we take you to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard, very dear to us Genoese, with all the information you need to plan your visit.
How to get to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard
The Shrine of Our Lady of the Guardia is located in Piazza Santuario, 4, 16014 Ceranesi Genoa.
For information, the number to contact is 39 010 72351.
Arriving at the Sanctuary by car
From the Bolzaneto (A7) motorway exit, take the SP52, direction Geo, and follow it for 10 kilometres.
You will find ample parking by the Chapel of the Apparition, and a few car parks near the entrance.
In busy periods, the advice is to stop directly at the first car parks, thus avoiding long queues.
From there, to go up to the Sanctuary, you can take the Beatitudes Trail (1 kilometre uphill) that starts near the Chapel of the Apparition.
Reaching the Sanctuary by bus
From Bolzaneto,bus no. 932 leaves for the Sanctuary in about 35 minutes.
On weekdays, the bus runs only 2 times ( 08:50 and 16:00).
From the Sanctuary, it returns to Bolzaneto at 11:15 and 18:30.
On holidays, the bus runs 5 times ( 08:40 – 10:05 – 11:05 – 14:15 – 16:00).
It returns to Bolzaneto at 09:35 – 11:20 – 12:20 – 15:15 – 18:15.
Check timetables on www.amt.genova.it
Arriving at the Sanctuary by taxi
Since 2017, the Sanctuary has an agreement with the Taxi service.
By calling at least 24 hours in advance on 39 010 77277 during the hours 9am-4pm, or by booking through www.prenotaxi.com, you can arrange a taxi ride to the Sanctuary at a special price.
Arriving at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard on foot
The Club Alpino Italiano suggests no less than 6 itineraries to reach the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard, departing from various locations.
The shortest option is the one indicated above, which is to park near the Chapel of the Apparition and walk along the Path of the Beatitudes on which there are stone slabs engraved with the evangelical beatitudes.
We arrived at the Sanctuary via the Green Route of the former Guidovia, departing from Gaiazza.
You can find the description of the itinerary HERE.
A little history of the Shrine
Tradition has it that Our Lady appeared to a shepherd from Livellato, Benedetto Pareto, on 29 August 1490 and asked him to have a chapel built on the mountain.
Pareto first consulted his wife, who expressed her doubts and reminded him that the villagers would believe him to be crazy.
A few days later, the shepherd fell from a tree and remained suspended between life and death until the Virgin miraculously healed him.
At that point, Pareto and his family became convinced to build the chapel, as the Virgin wished, and sought help from their fellow villagers.
A notarial deed dated 1530 and kept in the historical archives of the archiepiscopal curia of Genoa, certifies the veracity of the apparition of the Virgin Mary to Pareto, thanks to the testimony of some of the farmer’s acquaintances.
The First Chapel and the First Sanctuary
According to tradition, therefore, the first chapel was built by Pareto himself on the site of the apparition.
As the flow of pilgrims to La Guardia increased, however, there was a need to build a larger church.
Thus, between 1528 and 1530, a primitive Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard was built, thanks to donations from the faithful and the noble Ghersi family.
It was equipped with a bell tower and was flanked by a hospice for pilgrims.
The various restorations carried out over the following years were not sufficient to accommodate the large number of worshippers, and in the mid-19th century, the construction of a new Sanctuary was again necessary, which was completed in 1889.
The Shrine today: what to see
A visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard includes a tour of the Basilica, the Chapel of the Apparition, the Ex-Voto Hall, and the wonderful permanent crib.
Don’t miss the panorama from the square in front of the Sanctuary, where there is a breathtaking view of the city of Genoa and the sea.
An orientation table at the end of the forecourt shows the distance between the Guardia and other famous religious sites.
Inside the complex, there are also two restaurants and a small playground for children.
The Basilica and the Ex-Votos
The 19th-century basilica is a Latin cross-shaped church with three naves.
It is decorated with wonderful frescoes dedicated to the life of the Virgin Mary.
The frescoes in the dome depict Mary surrounded by the patron saints of the Republic of Genoa.
The two side chapels are dedicated one to St John the Baptist and the other to St Joseph.
On the right side of the Basilica, you can see an altar adorned with pink and blue bows offered by new parents in exchange for the protection of the Madonna della Guardia for their children.
Hall of Ex-Votos
From the left aisle of the Sanctuary, one enters the Hall of Ex-Votos.
Here the faithful, over the years, have brought numerous objects to Mary, as a sign of gratitude for graces received.
Simple or precious objects, of common or less common use, have been brought as thanksgiving for being cured of an illness or escaping misfortune.
Chapel of the Apparition
As mentioned, the Chapel of the Apparition is located just below the shrine.
The small building contains a marble altar and statues, also made of marble, of Our Lady and Pareto.
Outside the chapel, there is a statue of Don Orione, kneeling in prayer.
The Cribs of Our Lady of the Guard
If you go to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard, you absolutely must not miss a visit to its marvellous Cribs.
For this, I recommend that you contact 39 010 7235813 in advance and make an appointment, so that you can be sure to visit them.
The permanent exhibition of Nativity Scenes
To see the permanent exhibition of Nativity Scenes, it is necessary to go down the flight of stairs next to the children’s playground.
The permanent exhibition contains over 200 nativities, mostly from inland Ligurian villages such as Masone, Campo Ligure and Ne.
There is also a small exhibition of nativity scenes from Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Bolivia.
Very nice is the reproduction of what appears to be a typical Ligurian fishing village (perhaps Boccadasse?) with the characteristic coloured houses, the gozzo, and, to the side, the ever-present Lanterna Genoa.
I also really liked the crib made out of shells and the reproduction of the guidovia.
They are all beautiful and original, really.
Immediately after the entrance, you can also find an animated scene with a farmer shearing a sheep, and other life-size characters made in collaboration with the famous Pentema nativity scene.
A visit to the permanent exhibition of nativity scenes will take you at least half an hour.
Remember to get your stamp on the Nativity Passport.
Gigi Noli’s Crib with Nuts
Right next to the entrance to the basilica, on the right-hand side, is Gigi Noli’s characteristic crib, made entirely out of poor materials such as barks, roots, small wood, shells, and enriched by a mechanical animation system.
Thanks to the offerings left by visitors to his crib,Gigi Noli supported missions all over the world and, in particular, the N.S. della Guardia Diocesan Mission in Santo Domingo.
I would like to remind you that admission to the cribs of Our Lady of the Guardia is free, but if you liked them, you can leave a free offering.
Opening hours of the Sanctuary
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Guard is open daily 7:30 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. (standard time) and 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m. (daylight saving time).
Public holidays 08:00-10:00-11:00-12:00-16:00.
Bank Holidays 16:00.
Bank Holidays 08:00-10:00-11:00-12:00-17:00.
Bank holidays 17:00.
On Sundays and feast days, the Rosary is held in the Chapel of the Apparition at 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
On weekdays, the Rosary is held in the Basilica at 15:30 (standard time) and 16:30 (daylight saving time).
When is the feast of Our Lady of the Guard in Genoa?
Our Lady of the Guard is celebrated with a big party every year on 29 August, the day Our Lady first appeared to Benedetto Pareto.
Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia: conclusions
Well, I have come to the end of this article in which I have described the beautiful Shrine of Our Lady of the Guard, on the heights of Genoa.
I hope I have intrigued you and enticed you to plan a visit, perhaps on a sunny day, so as to better appreciate the panorama as far as the sea.