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Photo by Elizabeth Hey

Black Madonna from the Sanctuary of Oropa

Black Madonna

Statues or paintings of the Virgin Mary with dark or black skin and European features were often made in the 13th and 14th centuries. Some claim that these representations hold miraculous powers.

At the Sanctuary of Oropa’s chapel, the 13th-century “Black Madonna” holds a golden apple signifying original sin in one hand and baby Jesus, signifying redemption, in the other.

Several large halls at Oropa are lined with photos and artwork depicting modern-day healings and miracles attributed to prayers offered to the “Black Madonna.”

Watch for wool
The province of Biella’s reputation as one of the world’s finest textile producers means one thing: shopping.

Wool production has been rooted in the province for approximately two centuries. More than 1,500 textile and mechanical textile companies, most of them small, lead the world’s wool production.

Factory shops, open to the public, sell suits and cashmere, linens and sporting goods. Household names such as Fila Sport can be found in the region.

Passion in 
the Piedmont
Three angels, garbed in white robes appear on the hillside framed against the dark Italian sky. On a crisp September evening in Sordevolo, Italy, approximately 400 actors, speaking in ancient Italian, put on “The Passion” in a massive outdoor amphitheater.

The biblically accurate production originated in Rome, where it was performed in the Coliseum until 1530. Pope Paul III halted the production because of the animosity it created between Christians and Jews.

Today, the residents of tiny Sordevolo — population 1,200 — join together every five years to put on the production, which runs from June to September. Planning and tryouts begin nine months in advance. Sordevolo’s local families build the life-size sets, make costumes and work backstage.

“We still use the same text, the same words, even now,” said Carol Pedrazzo, president of the Association for “The Passion” of Sordevolo. “Families have performed the same parts for generations.”

Turin’s party

This year, Italy celebrates the 150th anniversary of its unification and emergence as a modern nation. Nine separate kingdoms were united to form modern Italy.

At the epicenter of the celebration is the city of Turin. Proclaimed as the Kingdom of Italy’s first capital in 1861 and the current capital of the Piedmont region, Turin will host festivities March through November.

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Elizabeth Hey

Elizabeth Hey is a member of Midwest Travel Journalists Association and has received numerous awards for her writing and photography. Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @travelbyfork.