I decided to launch my Religious Travel division of Travel Overtures when I realized that plenty of others also feel drawn to tracing the heritage of their faith. Religious group travel inspires a sense of life’s purpose, fosters closer relations within the faith community, and brings religious history alive. Not just another sightseeing tour, a faith-based tour (be it pilgrimage or religious heritage) is the perfect vehicle for education into world history, politics, culture, and peoples.
One great place to visit is Italy’s Piedmont region about two hours west from Milan. Just above the quiet, non-tourist-crowded picturesque town of Biella is the Oropa Sanctuary, a UNESCO World Heritate Site since 2003. It is the home of the “Black Madonna”, datng from the late 13th century. Legend has it that St. Eusebius, Bishop of Vercelli in the fourth century, carried the black, wooden statue of Madonna, sculpted by St. Luke, from Jerusalem to Oropa. Biella’s Piazza Duomo dates to Roman times.
Lodging is available at the Sanctuary of Oropa convent and rooms range from the austere to those outfitted with TV, telephones, and private baths. There are plenty of restaurants offering the region’s specialty cheeses, wines, and chocolate. By the way, if you are a golfer, Italy’s best golf course is only about thiry minutes from town. Architect John Morrison’s Golf Club le Betulle has been used for many tournaments and is also considered one of the more prominent courses in all of Europe. After a day of golf, quench your thirst with gold-medal beers from the Menabrea Brewery. Both American dollars and Euros are accepted as legal tender, though the Euro is preferred.