• The Holy Routes

The Celestial Route: three countries, three paths, one faith

The religious path twists and turns between Italy, Austria and Slovenia, bringing pilgrims to the Sanctuary of Mount Lussari, in Friuli. The Italian path starts in Aquileia

Fabrizio Lodi

The Celestial Route: three countries, three paths, one faith

Three Countries united by a path imbued with faith. We are talking about the “Iter Aquileiense” or “Celestial Route”: this route was born thanks to a group of members of different associations, having in common the fact of being pilgrims physically walking towards a spiritual purpose.

The Iter Aquileiense - reopened in the summer of 2006 - is made of three paths starting from significant historical and religious places: one in Italy, in Aquileia (where the Gospel was first announced and where the missionaries started their journey to bring the Christian religion in the Old Country); one in Slovenia, in Brezje, at Kranj (the most important place regarding the Virgin Mary) and one in Austria, in Maria Saal, above Klagenfurt (amazing church built during the 8th century, very important centre for the history of Carinthia and for the cultural and religious Middle-European identity).

Three ramifications bringing the pilgrims, on foot, from their starting cities to Camporosso, to climb together and reach the 1760-metre high Sanctuary of Mount Lussari, near the Tarvisio pass, Friuli. It is a religious complex which, already in the 16th century, was the destination of the pilgrimages of the three populations, and today it is the symbol of exchange between different cultures that, on account of the Virgin Mary, worshipped for centuries by people who could reach it travelling along newly rediscovered paths.

The name “Celestial Route” is also due to the fact that the path joins places of ancient veneration of Mary. Symbol of the route is the mosaic fish found on the floor of the basilica of Aquileia. 

The Italian route follows an ancient pilgrimage route and winds around sea and mountains, going from south towards north. It goes along the entire Friuli and not so far from the Slovenian border. Its first stretch is flat, crosses the hills of Collio; then it goes on the Prealps and the Giulie Alps. Then, the route crosses Cormons, Castelmonte, Cividale, the Gran Monte and the Resia and Dogna valleys.

The Slovenian route starts in Brezje, crosses Jesenice, Kranjska Gora, Rateče, Fusine and finally Tarvisio.

The Austrian route starts in Maria Saal, crosses Klagenfurt, Maria Worth, Maria Gail, Arnoldstein, Coccau and finally reaches Tarvisio.

Obviously, it is not an organized journey: there are no registrations, no organised structures, nobody (unless you do) will notify your arrival to the possible reception points.


The Italian route in Friuli can be divided into ten stages, but each pilgrim can build their own route according to their needs and intentions. It is possible to personalise the route both by booking in different places, other than the usual ones, and by visit interesting places, such as the Abbey of Rosazzo. 

It is being prepared a variation that, near the border, crosses important places, that have been called “Variant of the Sacred Mountains”.  The name, as well as the path, have been borrowed from a smaller route.

This variation starts in Aquileia and, after crossing San Canzian, it reaches Sagrado and climbs the Karst. Here it enters Slovenia, where it crosses Mirenski Grad, Castagnavizza, Monte Santo and Marijino Celje, to rejoin the Celestial Route and Castelmonte. 

The path is made by all the possible types of paths and is built using the existing ones. Therefore, even if the routes are marked as dirt tracks, they should always be viable (snow aside).

It is possible to travel the entire Celestial Route from June to September. During winter the snow can cover even half of the track, so only the first stages are viable.

From the elevation point of view, it is a challenging route: in the almost 200 kilometres there are over 6,700 metres uphill and almost 5,000 metres downhill. So, be ready to a fair amount of effort. It must be noted that the eastern part of Friuli is among the rainiest in Italy.

There is also a guide on the Celestial Route, titled “The Celestial Route - Walking from Aquileia to Mount Lussari”, publishing company “Ediciclo”, in Portogruaro: the guide is made of 178 pages, 120 coloured pictures, 25 maps scaled 1:25,000 with the detailed route and many texts.