Other must-see attractions in San Sosti include the Church of Madonna del Carmine, the Church of Santa Caterina V.M., and the waterfall of Fra Giovanni on the river Rosa where, in addition to admiring the great waterfall, you can also see the ruins of the old watermill and the old hydroelectric power plant.
During an excavation campaign in 1848, a precious votive axe dating back to the 6th century BC was found in the area surrounding San Sosti. It was subsequently sold to the British Museum in London where it is still on display.
Also well worth a visit are the remains of the 13th-14th century Castle which, from its position on a rocky spur, overlooks the valley of San Sosti and the Gola del Rosa gorge.
The Sanctuary is located in a secluded and mysterious place above the town of San Sosti where it is surrounded by the wonders of nature and the peaks of the Pollino Massif.
Despite the fact that the first documents on pilgrimages to the Sanctuary only go as far back as 1449, it is thought to have been built a long time before that as the first niche seems to have been built by 1274 on the initiative of the Abbey of Acquaformosa.
The name pettoruto, meaning stony or rocky, is a reference to the mountains surrounding the Sanctuary.
According to a legend from the 17th century, a deaf-mute shepherd boy heard his name and saw the Madonna and Child in his arms, who urged him to find the church.
Another legend states that the statue of the Madonna, positioned on the right hand side of the nave, was made by Nicola Mario di Altomonte, who, after being falsely accused of a crime, carved the image of the Madonna with the lily and the Child with the globe on the tip of the rock so that his innocence would be brought to light.
Since then the Sanctuary, already a hermitage of eastern monasticism, has become a popular destination for an ever-growing number of pilgrims who climb Sacro Monte in search of comfort and spiritual peace.
Today the statue is kept in a shrine inside the Sanctuary, which was promoted to Basilica Minor by Pope John Paul II in 1979.
Currently, the church has a unique facade in neo-Romanesque style and is divided into three parts with a central atrium with three arches. The bell tower is quadrangular with mullioned windows and is crowned with a cusp. In recent years, other restoration works have been carried out around the Sanctuary to make it more accessible to its many visitors.
Although the path leading to the Sanctuary is long and difficult, every year thousands of believers from across the region climb to the heights of the Pollino Massif to venerate the Madonna. Devotion to the Madonna of San Sosti is deeply-rooted, even in distant countries such as Argentina and Canada, where emigrants have continued to celebrate the rites linked to the Madonna del Pettoruto in their places of residence.
From the 1st to the 8th September, a thousand-year-old festival honouring the Madonna del Pettoruto takes place. The streets of San Sosti are filled with believers and pilgrims who recite their prayers to the Madonna and take their vows.
The Castle dates back to the 11th century AD and perches on a rocky spur from which it overlooks the valley of San Sosti and the Gola del Rosa gorge.
This particular position allowed the castle to act as a lookout for the territory and, above all, to send communications via the Gola del Rosa to the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Archaeological studies have found coins from the Swabian and Angevin ages as well as artefacts from other periods such as Roman ceramics from the 1st - 2nd century AD and fragments of small pieces of Greek votive pottery from the 6th - 5th century BC. Other findings show that the site was inhabited as far back as the Bronze and Iron Age.
In order to build this expansive medieval structure, an older building such as a phrourion from the Greek age, positioned to guard the gorge, or a Thuri outpost was probably used as a foundation.
The investigations carried out in the Castello della Rocca, together with those completed in the Church of the Carmine di San Sosti, offer new perspectives to our understanding of the area’s archaeology. They have also provided further insight into the location where the famous bronze votive axe, now housed in the British Museum, was discovered in 1846.