The towering bronze figure of San Carlo Borromeo near the town of Arona on Lake Maggiore is impossible to miss. Second in size only to New York’s Statue of Liberty, the hollow statue has steep stairs and ladders inside leading up to its head, where visitors can peer out over the surrounding landscape.
Known as the Colossus or Sancarlone, meaning “big San Carlo” in Italian, the statue was built in the 17th century for the Borromeo family estate (now the Parco della Rocca Borromea) to honor Saint Charles Borromeo, the archbishop of Milan who was canonized in 1610. The statue’s granite pedestal is more than 38 feet (11.5 meters) tall, and the statue rises another 76 feet (23 meters) above that, making it one of the tallest statues in the world. This massive bronze statue, which can be seen from miles around, is one of the most popular destinations on the shores of Lake Maggiore (Lago Maggiore), and a popular stop on tours of lakeside attractions.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The statue is surrounded by lovely gardens with a panoramic terrace overlooking the lake and the Rocca di Angera castle where you can picnic.
- Kids especially enjoy the dizzying climb through the inside of the statue to peepholes in the statue’s eyes, nose, ears, and shoulders.
- There is a long flight of stairs to reach the base of the statue, plus stairs and ladders inside, so it is not accessible to wheelchairs or strollers.
How to Get There
The Sancarlone statue sits on the Sacro Monte di Arona, a hilltop overlooking Lake Maggiore outside the town of Arona in Italy's Piedmont region. There are regional trains that run from the cities of Novara and Milan about an hour south to Arona, but no public transportation from the station to the statue about 1.5 miles outside of town. The best way to visit is by joining a Lake Maggiore tour that includes transportation.
When to Get There
The best time to explore Lake Maggiore and its sights is from spring through fall, as many attractions close in the winter; the Colossus of San Carlo Borromeo is closed January and February.
The Colossus and the Statue of Liberty
Giovan Battista Crespi designed the Colossus, but French artist Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi studied the statue in 1869 on his way back from Egypt and used many of the same techniques when designing his Statue of Liberty over a decade later.