Pier Giorgio ate the same dish when he came to Oropa, but I think he enjoyed it more than me. In a letter to a friend, he wrote: “After we attended Holy Mass, said at the main altar of the Madonna, we went from Oropa to Sette Fontane, a farmhouse situated in the Elvo valley at the foot of Mucrone. It was eleven when we arrived; we ate a good plate of polenta concia. A cool breeze was blowing overhead, and the sun was hot. Mucrone was beautiful up close and it made me wish that I could climb it from the steep side. But then came the fog, which covered everything; but once in a while the outline reappeared. Around two o’clock we went down to Pollone.” He wrote that letter 90 years ago but it could just have easily been written today.
The restaurant we ate at was jam-packed with mostly Italian tourists. There were dozens of tour buses in the upper parking lot. It’s nice to see that people still make pilgrimages to these remote places. Oropa is not the most convenient place to visit but it is well worth it for the beautiful mountain view and the serenity of the sanctuaries. It is one of the stops planned for the upcoming FrassatiUSA pilgrimage in the footsteps of Pier Giorgio that will take place next spring.
Driving on the road to Oropa takes nerves of steel. The road is narrow with the sharpest hairpin curves I have ever seen. And yet, the cars travel at ridiculous speeds making every encounter with another vehicle a contest to see who will blink first and hit the brakes and move over. Or you may get behind a tractor going extremely slow with a young boy sitting carelessly in a life-threatening position on the rear of the vehicle! I am also always fascinated by the number of cyclists on these roads. It certainly would be perfect training for the Tour de France to bike up these hills. But they seem to be doing it just for fun. There are occasional faucets in little cement alcoves along the way where you can stop and drink pure mountain water. And, of course, all along the way, you enjoy a spectacular view of the mountain ranges up above.
I think these mountains must have played some part in Pier Giorgio’s spiritual formation. He viewed them from his bedroom window. He climbed them on the weekends. He prayed in their shadow on a regular basis at the feet of the Brown Madonna. In them, he felt close to God. And because of them, he wrote and posted on his bedroom door, “Mountains, mountains, mountains, I love you.” What a spectacular view of the mountains he must be enjoying now. ///cmw