The Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte is located in Genoa, in the San Fruttuoso district.
Erected on the hill at an altitude of 138 metres, the Sanctuary dominates the Val Bisagno and, from its churchyard, there is an exceptional panorama over the city of Genoa as far as the sea.
This article was written with the intention of helping many people to discover a part of the city of Genoa, unknown to most.
The area, in fact, is mostly frequented by the inhabitants of the neighbourhood, but it is worth a visit both for the Sanctuary itself (inside it also houses a museum, recently inaugurated) and to enjoy the wonderful panorama over the city.
Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte has a large churchyard made up of risseu , a cobbled mosaic that is typical of Ligurian churches and palaces.
In the centre of the churchyard, the risseu forms a design in which the coat of arms of the Republic of Genoa, the symbol of the Franciscans, and a large M, the initial of the name of Mary, to whom the Sanctuary is dedicated, appear.
The church is very large and contains ten side chapels used as burial places by the noble Genoese families who embellished them with remarkable works of art.
Inside the sanctuary, there are several frescoes and works by illustrious artists of the time, including Giovanni Andrea Ansaldo, Domenico Fiasella, and the Orsolino brothers.
In the nave, just below the altar, a short flight of steps leads to a very impressive crypt that houses the 15th-century statue of the Madonna del Monte.
Beyond the sacristy, one enters the Museo degli Ex Voto, which houses Ex Voto (mostly paintings on canvas or paper) donated by faithful survivors of various calamities, and various works of art from the Sanctuary (canvases, sculptures, silverware), collected here for the public to admire.
A bit of history
The Franciscan community officially entered it in 1444 , but the Sanctuary has older origins.
In fact, the first official documents of the church date back to 1183, when the Mortarians canons settled there.
Over the years, the friars arranged the access road to the Sanctuary, what is now called the Salita Vecchia, and created the Bosco dei Frati, one of the largest city forests in Europe.
The friary, attached to the Sanctuary, housed the Franciscan community until 2022.
Today, the Sanctuary is open thanks to the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of the Mount and the Friends of the Mount Association.
Sanctuary gives its name to the bitter Santa Maria al Monte, a digestif at the end of a meal, the recipe for which has been elaborated over the centuries by the friars of the convent.
Santa Maria al Monte is composed of 36 ingredients including herbs, spices, roots, flowers, and the recipe, secret and never changed since 1858, has been handed down by the Sanctuary fathers for five generations.
The ingredients include myrrh, aloe, saffron, wormwood and cardamom, mixed in an alcohol base.
At the end of the 19th century, the bitter was produced by distilleries outside the convent.
Trip to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte: opening hours
Sanctuary is open on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and 3.30 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Holy Mass is celebrated at 11 a.m. on Sundays and feast days, and the Rosary at 4 p.m. on all opening days.
The Ex Voto Museum is open from 10:00 to 11:00 and from 12:00 to 13:00 on Sundays and public holidays.
For all information, please have a look at the official website.
How to get to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte
The Sanctuary can be reached by car along Via Federico Donaver, in the San Fruttuoso district. Adjacent to the Sanctuary, there is a large free car park.
The opening hours of the car park are 15:00-19:00 from Tuesday to Friday, 8:00-24:00 at weekends and on holidays.
If you arrive during closing hours, you can park your car freely at the roadside, just before arriving at the Sanctuary.
Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte can also be reached on foot, walking along Salita Vecchia di Nostra Signora del Monte through a one-kilometre creuza that can be entered from Villa Imperiale.
Where to eat
Near the sanctuary, there are a couple of really good trattorias: A Cabannetta de Cianderlin a hundred metres walk away, and La Locanda del Monte right next to the church.
The former offers traditional Genoese home cooking based on vegetable pie, cuculli, cima, stoccafisso, and roast beef. A special mention goes to the minestrone!
The menu is fixed and the price is around EUR 30.00.
The other is a restaurant with more refined dishes and an a la carte menu. Prices range from 10.00€ for starters to 20.00€ for main courses.
Inside, there is also a room equipped with children’s games.
Trip to the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Monte: the Bosco dei Frati
The Bosco dei Frati is the most important green lung near the city, owned partly by the friars and partly by the municipality of Genoa.
It is a forest of about 110,000 square metres, characterised by Mediterranean plants, mostly holm oaks, cypresses and oaks.
The forest was donated to the monastery in 1444 by Raffaele Adorno, the 23rd doge of the Republic of Genoa.
The aim was to create a place where the friars could retreat to meditate, modelled on the Franciscan hermitages such as the Hermitage of the Carceri in Assisi.
Bosco dei Frati, still retains three of the four original chapels , used in the past as Stations of the Cross.
At the entrance to the forest, you will find a sign with a map of the paths, created in collaboration between the Order of Friars Minor, the Municipality of Genoa and the Associazione Amici del Monte.
Three paths of different lengths (10, 15 and 25 minutes) are described. Some sections of the path get a little lost in the woods.
For those who want to undertake the walk, I recommend wearing hiking boots, also because you can find a lot of mud if it has just rained.