Spiritual places

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Every region of our beautiful country, Italy, treasures ancient and deeply-rooted traditions shaped by religious worship. Tuscany is no exception, and is dotted with many spiritual places which vary according to size, characteristics and historical period. It is impossible to name them all, but we, as insiders, would like to suggest some of the best-known and most important ones such as La Verna, as well as smaller ones of equal beauty and charm such as Eremo di Calomini or Eremo le Celle. You can spend a few hours visiting them but, if you want, you can also decide to spend your holidays in a convent: an interesting option if you are looking for some peace and quiet. There are many monasteries for spiritual quest where you can spend intense periods of prayer and reflection. Depending on your preferences on how and where to pray you, can opt for the places of San Francesco in Toscana. Among other things, Tuscany includes some stages of the St. Francis Way: Pieve Santo Stefano, San Sepolcro and Citerna.

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As for other religious itineraries on foot, Tuscany is also crossed by the ancient Via Francigena, once covered by pilgrims travelling to Rome and now included in various trekking paths. So, by following one of these itineraries you can also choose to stay in a convent overnight. If possible, since not all monasteries offer accommodation services, you can choose this option even simply to give yourself a more Spartan accommodation, but definitely away from the chaos and stress of modern cities. Whatever your religious beliefs are, monasteries in Tuscany are often immersed in a marvellous natural landscape and in a peaceful atmosphere that seems almost unreal. A real panacea for stress! Vallombrosa, for example, just a few kilometres from Florence, has made the protection and enhancement of nature one of its distinctive features. Slowing down, pondering, relaxing immersed in the greenery will come spontaneous, even more so in front of the views that many sanctuaries in Tuscany can offer. And since sacred art is another treasure of our region, among the abbeys in Tuscany and even among the most isolated hermitages in Tuscany, it will not be difficult to come across valuable and interesting works of art. Certainly Certosa di Firenze, from an artistic point of view, really has a lot to offer. We have a number of places scattered around Tuscany to suggest, so that depending on the area you have chosen to visit, you can always cut a few hours out for yourself or, why not, even a few days of pure relaxation.

CERTOSA OF FLORENCE. Just 7 km from Florence in Galluzzo, Certosa, among the convents in Tuscany, is one of the most interesting from an architectural and artistic points of view. Wanted and funded by the Florentine banker Niccolò Acciaiuoli, it is a treasure chest of works of art ranging from Pontormo's works to others from the Robbiana School, and including interesting paintings in the rich art gallery. Following extensive guided tours, which take place all day, you can visit the parlour, the chapter hall and the refectory. Everything of these places, from buildings to furniture, tells the secrets and curiosities of the severe monastic life that took place inside.

MONTE SENARIO SANCTUARY (FLORENCE). Among the Sanctuaries in Tuscany Monte Senario is one of those that boasts a breath-taking panorama that ranges from Mugello to Florence. So much so that it is one of Florence inhabitants’ favourite places for field trips, but it is also appreciated for the tasty meals prepared by the friars. The origin of the sanctuary is due to an appearance of the Virgin Mary, which seems to have been seen at the same time of those who would become the founding fathers of the Order of the Servants of Mary. The group of mystics then chose to start a hermitic life, living in some caves in the place where the Tuscany sanctuary is now located. Some of the small caves can still be visited.

ABBEY OF VALLOMBROSA (FLORENCE). It is located in the town of Reggello, a few kilometres from Florence, in a real natural oasis. It is no coincidence that the founder of the Monastery and Order of the Vallombrosan Monks, San Gualberto, is also the patron saint of the Forest. And the students of the University of Florence who study forestry often come to see the botanical garden, the arboreta and the peculiar seeds museum. Vallombrosa is also one of those monasteries in Tuscany that really has much to offer: the Museum of Sacred Art, the Abbey, the library, the circuit of the chapels that winds through the woods among the places of San Gualberto.

BADIA IN COLTIBUONO (GAIOLE IN CHIANTI - SIENA). This is a truly special place. First of all because although it was born as an abbey, following the confiscation in the Napoleon Age it was taken away from the friars and, with the exception of the church, never became a proper monastery again. After several more or less fortunate property passages, it finally came into the hands of the Stucchi Prinetti family who, from a simple farmhouse, transformed it into one of the many places of Tuscan excellence. Now it is a modern farm business that produces wine and other strictly organic products. It is also a place where to enjoy delicious, tasty Tuscan cuisine, prepared by nothing less than a descendant of the Medici family.

SANCTUARY OF LA VERNA (AREZZO). Among San Francesco’s places, the Sanctuary of La Verna is one of the most important. On a land donated by a count from the area, who was fascinated upon hearing the Friar of Assisi speak, St. Francis created one of the first Franciscan hermitages in Tuscany. Here he received stigmata, an event that shaped and inspired many of the places and buildings. In La Verna the surroundings are all to be explored. The sanctuary, in fact, is placed amidst a wild and uncontaminated natural environment where the woods are the kings of the area: Casentino Forests. In addition to the wonderful nature you can also admire works of art such as the terracotta work by Andrea and Luca della Robbia and some canvases by Giorgio Vasari.

HERMITAGE LE CELLE (CORTONA - AREZZO). St. Franceis left several traces in Tuscany of his presence. Eremo le Celle is definitely one of these and boasts a primacy: it was born in 1211, even before the one in La Verna. Perched on the hills of Monte Sant'Egidio and crossed by a fiery mountain stream, it is among the best preserved Tuscany hermitages. The picturesque stone bridges connect the buildings of the complex. A visit to San Francesco’s Cell will be a touching and evocative experience.

CAMALDOLI MONASTERY (AREZZO). This monastic complex is made up of the Monastery and the Hermitage, the latter located 3km higher up than the Monastery. Founded in around the year 1000 by San Romualdo, it became the Mother House of the Benedictine Camaldoli Monks. Just like La Verna it is nestled in the forests of Casentino, in a nature that expresses all its peaceful and invigorating power. It is interesting to visit the cells with the special 'spiral' structure, designed to protect the monks from the cold winters in the mountains. If you are passionate about art, take note that in the Church of the Monastery there are some canvases by Vasari, while in the Church of the Hermitage you can view the ‘Vergine con il Bambino ed i Santi’ terracotta by Andrea della Robbia. In the Tuscany Hermitage of Camaldoli hospitality towards pilgrims has always been an important prerogative, so even today for those who wish to sleep in Camaldoli there are rooms for up to 200 people! And at the Old Pharmacy of Camaldoli you can buy the delicious liquor 'Lacrima d'Abeto'.

SANCTUARY OF MONTENERO (LIVORNO). It is practically above the city of Livorno and overlooks it from above. It is famous especially for the more than 700 ex voto that lie inside the Church. Whatever your opinions on the matter, the curiosity to peek into the stories told by the exposed objects will affect almost everyone. Just like the landscape on the coast will take the breath away from anyone who looks over the square from the guard rails. It's nice to reach it by funicular, convenient for young children or lazy travellers. Among other things, Madonna delle Grazie is also the patron saint of Tuscany Region, as is shown by the galleries of the municipalities that all have the coat of arms.

ERMITAGE OF CALOMINI (VERGEMOLI - LUCCA). It is located in Garfagnana and is literally perched on the side of the mountain that seems to threaten its buildings. Its origin is due to the appearance of the Virgin Mary, even though popular tradition has handed down two different legends. As they say, better than nothing. What matters is that the image of the Madonna still guarded in the Church has been venerated for centuries and visited by many pilgrims. Originally guarded by some hermits since 1941, some Capuchin friars have later taken care of it. It is a true place of silence and peace with a breath-taking view.

Take advantage of your trip to Tuscany to take a break from the stressful routine that grips us all and seize the opportunity of a holiday to give yourself some moments of true peacefulness. Whatever the holy place in Tuscany you choose to visit, silence and tranquillity will be the precious gift that an original side of Tuscany will offer you. A Tuscany where you can slow down and stop, no matter whether to pray or just to think. Discover with us also the intimate and spiritual side of a region that, like a colourful mosaic, offers its visitors many tiles with different shades.