Loreto sits atop a hill almost to the Adriatic, just about 15 miles south of Ancona — a relatively quick drive from Tutto Doppio. It’s a beautiful town, with the expected small streets, shops, and cafes.
But the main attraction is the Basilica Della Santa Casa. Believers have been making the pilgrimage there since at least the 14th century. The reason? The Holy House (santa casa).
Legend has it that this is the home in which the Mary was born and raised, in which she received the annunciation, and in which she lived during the childhood of her son, Jesus. The story goes that in 1291, with the Turks threatening its existence, angels plucked up the house and transported it away from Nazareth.
But they didn’t bring it all the way to Loreto. Instead, the Santa Casa was deposited in Croatia; an appearance of the Virgin Mary, along with miraculous cures attested to the true origins of the house. Then in 1294, the house was transported across the Adriatic and set down in the woods about 7 kilometers to the west of Loreto. The holy house was soon moved to the hilltop that was to become the town of Loreto.
Today’s basilica – and especially the small, ancient santa casa that sits within it – is as beautiful as its origin story is farfetched. You can walk right into the little house, and inside you will feel the devotion of those who are there with you, and the many who have come before.
If you’re like me, all of that history and beauty will have worked up an appetite. For a low key bite, we can highly recommend Piadineria Artigianale Magritte. Piadini are the Italian version of quesadillas, and this place makes them in with all kinds of fillings. They also have a very nice selection of beer. Lunch was so delicious that we each ordered another round of piadini – really special!