In the video – Part 4 Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
Welcome to Monte Oliveto & San Miniato. We left you in Siena (link) and are now on Part IV of my week long journey around Tuscany – welcome to the final chapter.
I had only a day left of the week long drive ( 400+ km) around Tuscany, so from a brief brainstorming session the night before, I decided that the time had come to visit Monte Oliveto and finish off in San Miniato. It was on my way to Florence, where I had to drop of the car anyway and being my last day, I would ask the first local I met for the one thing to visit while in each town.
Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
Welcome to the home of Bernardo Tolomei, the founding Father of the Archabbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore and the Roman Catholic Congregation of the Blessed Virgin of Monte Oliveto. Bernardo came from an aristocratic family and had always found himself to be a devout Christian due to his uncle, a Dominican, that through religious teachings created the Bernardo Tolomei that would make Monte Oliveto Maggiore, renowned throughout the world for this beautiful abbey.
It is referred to as Monte Oliveto, due to the many olive trees found throughout the area. The monastery was begun in 1320 and for centuries, the abbey was one of the main land possessors in the Siena region.
For this day our tour guide was the very friendly, Father Carlos, from Panama.
Why visit the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore
1. An Italian Renaissance masterpiece. The art found in the abby is absolutely spectacular. You will find works from some very famous artists such as Della Robbia (also seen at Santuario della Verna), Luca Signorelli, Antonio Muller, Giovanni da Verona, Matteo Ripanda, Neroccio di Bartolomeo de’ Landi, Vincenzo Tamagni, and il Sodoma. The Chiostro Grande (“Great Cloister”) realized between 1426 and 1443 is a spectacle, along with the breathtaking art gallery, and the refectory. In reality, every room and every corner is another amazing work of art. So if you love art, this is definitely a must visit.
2. There is also a beautiful ‘Foresteria’ (Guest house) where the fathers welcome pilgrims from all over the world. While I did not get a chance to sleep here, I saw the rooms. Basic setting but the views…just incredible!
3. The winery! Believe it or not, the Fathers here also produce wine and I can assure you, it is not that bad either ;). Full details on my Wineries section.
4. I could not miss out the food! I had lunch at this wonderful Agriturismo ‘Le Piazze’, which I discovered during one of our many searches on Monastery Stays. The family run ‘farmhouse’ is absolutely gorgeous and the home cooked meals are a delight. If you are passing by only for lunch or dinner, they do require a booking. Otherwise, during your stay, Francesca and her mother-in-law will be happy to offer you a ‘cooked-fresh-on-the-day’ meal. That means what they shopped for that morning, is what will be served! I loved the no menu concept!
Convento di San Francesco in San Miniato
Construction of this large complex started in 1276 and was only a small church, used as a temple dedicated to the first martyr Miniato. From 1343 new works were started, adding new chapels around the church in 1343. The building was again renovated from 1404 to 1480, including the lower church.
One of the main features of the main Church, is the first alter with the Madonna painted in 1708. The art found within this church are attributed to Francesco Curradi,Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Joannes Maria de Reggys (Beheading of the Baptist), and an unknown painter, which completed the altarpiece in 1677. In the refectory a large painting of Charles Bambocci with the Dinner of St. Francis and St. Clare. Other works include a wooden crucifix of the sixteenth century, a wooden statue of St. Anthony of Padua of the 18th century.
Why visit The Convent of San Francesco
1. Not being the most famous of Churches in San Miniato, I found this to be a ‘discovery’, as not many tourists or locals publicize the church.
2. You will notice the church is not as impeccably maintained as many other San Franciscan churches around in Italy and this was part of its charm.
3. The art. As per many of my posts, the beauty of churches in Italy is the rich art work and all free of charge! Check out the video above to see what I mean.
Where to Stay?
Being my last day, I did not stay in either Monte Oliveto or San Miniato. Bookings are available at both the Abbey and the Convento. The old cells of the priests have been turned into simple rooms with breathtaking views of the countryside.
Have you been to Monte Oliveto or San Miniato or both? What were your thoughts and experiences during your visit? Please make sure to tell me your story and what you discovered on your trip, in the comments below!
How to get there
For both San Miniato and Monte Oliveto Maggiore, the only real way to visit is by car, being hill top towns. The locals actually advised that they would always recommend visiting by car as the bus times are not always precise.
See the road we have done this far via Google Maps: