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Religious Tuscany: grand tour of mysticism and timeless charm

by Nadia Fondelli – This month, we’ll take you on a mystic tour around the monasteries, churches, abbeys and hermitages that also often offer simple hospitality.

These are places that originated in the distant buy cheap cialis site espharmacycom past and are often located in solitary environments, perfect for special holidays, as well as being great starting points to experience Tuscany from a different perspective. It’s just not possible to visit them all, so we’ve decided to offer you a religious grand tour.

Let’s start in Cortona, where you’ll encounter some grottos around Le Celle on the ridge of Monte Sant’Egidio, where the poor often sought refuge when Saint Francis retired here in prayer. A hermitage was erected here in 1231, which welcomed all those who wished to stay here between Umbria and Tuscany from 1922 onwards. Tel. 0575 603362

In the heart of Tuscany, there’s the monastery of Santa Trinita, where the Vallombrosan monks have stayed in the buildings along Via del Parione since the eleventh century, who now own what was once the novitiate. A mixture of Gothic and Romanesque, also frequented by Michelangelo, the monastery included other premises, now used by the public, and the parish named in a papal bull by Lucius III in 1183. It is home to valuable works, including Domenico Ghirlandaio’s Adoration of the Shepherds. You can sleep here if booked in advance and enjoy the medicinal products that the monks have been producing here since 1780, including the elixir for stomachs for digestion and the green-yellow liqueurs based on thyme and herbs. Tel 055216912.

If you’re in the Maremma area, climbing up the slopes of Monte Argentario is a must, where Saint Paul of the Cross founded the Romitorio di Sant’Antonio in 1728, creating the first centre of the order, which was completed later with the church, monastery and the novitiate building, now used as a prayer house. The wonderful position that dominates the coast from on high, the coolness and silence of the surrounding woods make this house of the Passionists a perfect place to stop for a few days. If you’re just passing through, make sure you try the argentarium liqueur. Tel. 0564 812641.

Heading up the coast, just outside Livorno, stopping in the sanctuary of Montenero is a must, the oldest and most famous one in the region. The legend goes that it was named after Our Lady of Graces following the unearthing of a painting with her image on the Ardenza beach. In Baroque style, the sanctuary now belongs to the Vallombrosan Benedictines, who have created the headquarters of the Santa Lega Mariana to promote the worship of the Virgin Mary and provide hospitality in modern rooms. Tel. 0586 57771.

In the Apuan Alps, in Vergemoli, you come across the Eremo di Calomini, perched on a rocky ridge with an eleventh-century chapel and a hermitage for the ascetic and meditative life, where hermits remained until 1868. The place became a Diocesan sanctuary with the bishop’s decree in 1966. The cells are wonderful, as well as part of the church carved into the rock with the much worshipped wooden statue of Madonna della Penna. You can’t sleep here, but the herbalist’s shop is well worth a visit. Tel. 0583 767003.

Moving into the Massa Carrara area, you’re invited to stop in Mulazzo, where a sanctuary dedicated to Madonna del Monte, erected after a miracle, whose worship dates back to the twelfth century, when the Benedictines of the Abbazia di Borzone founded this isolated priory on the top of a mountain more than 3,000 feet above sea level. You can also stay here in holiday homes.

Heading back down to the south, we finish off our tour in a famous place that’s full of charm just outside Montalcino. Cloaked in myth and fact, Sant’Antimo was founded by Charlemagne, who saw many of his soldiers die in this valley, struck by the plague, in 781 on his way back from Rome and he swore that he would build a monastery to put an end to the epidemic. Only the crypt and Carolingian chapel remain of that monastery. The place is entrusted to the Canons Regular of Sant’Agostino in 1992. Here all the functions are sung in Gregorian and hospitality consists of ten rooms and four dormitories for self-managed groups. Tel. 0577 835659.


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