Welcome to Laverna – Italy
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In the video – Santuario della Verna —> Moving to Cortona. Part 2: Cortona
Welcome to Santuario della Verna (Laverna), located a few kilometers (approx. 3km) from Chiusi della Verna (Arezzo), in the National Park of the Casentino Forests. Famous for being the place where St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata on September 17, 1224.
Rising at 1128 meters high on the southern part of Mount Penna, the Sanctuary is home to numerous chapels and places of prayer and meditation, as well as several points of considerable religious importance. The Sanctuary is also an important focal point for those pilgrims embarking on the ‘Via Fracigina‘.
I had some appointments for work in both Florence and Siena over the course of the week so I decided to enjoy the week long drive and to visit some towns I never visited before. The result? I had an amazing road trip of 6 days exploring the Tuscan country side, starting in Laverna – Santuario della Verna.
My ‘tour guide’ for the day was Father Marco. It was an absolute pleasure to have been able to have had the tour of the house directly from the director of the Sanctuary (and for free!). Make sure to request if one of the monks is available but only if you speak Italian. Otherwise, the Fathers will be happy to organize a tour guide for you.
1. La Verna is an icon of Franciscans beliefs (and not only) and even in a short visit is possible to grasp the many artistic, cultural, historical and religious aspects, of this amazing and serene sanctuary. If you are religious, then it hands down has to be on your ‘to do’ list when in Italy. If you are not religious but can appreciate beautiful back drops and history, this is also for you.
2. The Basilica and Campanile and the architecture. From the quadrant square you access the ‘Basilica Maggiore’, which is in the shape of a Latin cross and a single nave. It was begun in 1348 but completed only in 1509 thanks to the contribution of ‘Arte della Lana di Firenze’, whose coat of arms is visible on the vault.
3. Through an arched doorway, once you exit the Basilica to your right, you are lead to the Corridor of the Stigmata (photo above to the left). Built between 1578 and 1582, this corridor leads to the place where Francis received the Stigmata and a daily procession takes place everyday at 3:00pm – this has been a ritual of the Sanctuary since 1431! Legend has it that one winter night, when a storm raged outside, the brothers had to give up the procession. The next morning they found imprinted in the snow the footsteps of the animals of the forest, who had completed the procession in their place. So the hall was built to give shelter to the brothers even in snowy winters. The hallway is painted with scenes (21 paintings) from the life of St. Francis, in particular those concerning La Verna.
4. The Sasso Spicco. From the square you can go down in a gorge which opens between huge boulders, which seems to halve the whole mountain. Under the shelter of the boulder is where San Francesco used to pray intensely and meditate on the passion of Christ. Please note: There are a number of steep stairs to get here so make sure you are ready for it!
5. Della Robbia, a large family of sculptors and potters who, by the fourth decade of the ‘400, for about a century, worked in Florence. The ‘master’ Luca della Robbia is the most significant artist of this large family to start working on the Santuario della Verna. Before associate and then successor of Luca was the nephew, Andrea Della Robbia. He was inspired by his teacher and was know for his white and blu ceramic pieces. Then the children of Andrea, in particular John Della Robbia, will continue this noble art. You will find these throughout the Sanctuary and are beautiful. We added a few more below for you to enjoy!
6. The incredible amount of chapels, churches and the Basilica. Situated lower down than the Maggiore church, the church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, of simple architecture, was founded in 1216 by the will of St. Francis.
7. The views! At 1128 meters the views are breathtaking. If there is one thing that both of us truly love about the Italian country side are the views. You are in a beautiful part of the world and driving through one of the most famous regions in Italy, you will find lakes, beautiful green fields and the Italian Cypress Tree. Laverna is a must for photographers.
8. The medieval pharmacy was incredible. While this is not shown to everyone, every now and then the Fathers will allow a brief look into the amazing world of medicine of the 1200-1300’s. Please do note that very rarely do they open the doors to the medieval pharmacy.
The pilgrims, visiting the Sanctuary, still honor one of the most important figures in the Roman Catholic Church, more than eight hundred years after his death. For more history and information on this amazing venue see the Official Santuario della Verna Website (link).
Where to Stay?
Booked through Monastery Stays, I spent one night in the Foresteria of this beautiful sanctuary. The rooms are absolutely fantastic and they transformed the old cells of the priests into modern (very simple) rooms. I stayed because meals are also available and after a long day, it was nice to relax and get ready for the following day. Fra Marco also showed me the room where John Paul II stayed, on his visit to the Sanctuary. Note that there is a curfew of 9:30pm and times are very strict. You may wish to visit one of the other monasteries on monasterystays.com.
Have you been to Laverna or Santuario della Verna? What were your thoughts and experiences during your visit? Please make sure to tell me your story and what you discovered on your trip by leaving a comment below– I love to hear the perspective of other travellers visit our beautiful country.
How to get there
The nearest town to the sanctuary is Chiusi della Verna, which is about 4 km. From Chiusi (Laverna), it is possible to drive or take the bus. If you are lucky, you can walk into one of the bars you can see on the street, and ask if the friendly locals can contact a private taxi for you (this will only happen in Summer, as Winter the city does get deserted).
From Florence (or Rome) you will need to take a train to Arezzo. You will then need to change train at Arezzo and get a ticked to Bibbiena. These tickets can be purchased online at Trenitalia (link).
From Florence there is a bus directly to Bibbiena. The latest information on this bus can be found at the following etruriamobilita (link) site.
From Bibbiena station you will find the tickets (approx. 2EUR) for the LFH11 or LFH12 to Chiusi della Verna. From Chiusi della Verna (only in the Summer), there is a bus from the main piazza to the Santuario. Make sure to ask at the piazza for tickets and times, as there is no website or info online on this bus. Alternatively, you can walk from Chiusi della Verna to the Santuario (it is a 5km hike so be prepared!).
*Please note that public transport to Chiusi della Verna will take approximately 3 hours.
St. Francis Way
For the devout (the brave and the fit), the sanctuary can be reached on foot! Yes on foot! It is part of the St. Francis Way (to Rome!) and while we have not embarked on this incredible journey, many people we met during our visit had started from Florence…on foot. We were amazed. We read up on it via Wikipedia (link).
Father Marco told us that they have many pilgrims that decide to visit the sanctuary on foot and free lodging is offered to those on the Via Francigena. Check out the official website of the Via Francigena (link).
The Road from Florence to Laverna (Santuario della Verna)
The Photo Gallery