Abbazia di Monte Oliveto & San Miniato | Diamonds of the Tuscan Countryside

Welcome to Monte Oliveto & San Miniato.

After leaving you in Siena (link), my week long journey around Tuscany comes to an end in Monte Oliveto Maggiore and San Miniato.

Let me add, a great way to finish off this incredible journey. 

Since I was on my way to Florence, where I had to drop off the car, these towns were a good way to ‘loop’ around.


Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Discovering Monte Oliveto & San Miniato | An Abbey, Picchiarelli Pasta & Wine


Let me give you some background on each, before I take you through these wonderful little towns.

L’Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore

A large Benedictine monastery in the Italian region of Tuscany, 10 km south of Asciano, in the province of Siena.

As the only highlight of the area and visited by thousands (not millions) of tourists a year its perfect. 

San Miniato
Located right in the middle between Pisa and Florence, is a town in the province of Pisa (my home town).
Gorgeous San Miniato sits on an historically strategic location atop three small hills.
Both Monte Oliveto Maggiore and San Miniato have a rich religious background, however, they are worth the visit whether you are religious or not. 


Monte Oliveto & San Miniato

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 brought up the Bernardo Tolomei that would go on to build 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. 

Construction of the monastery begun in 1320 and for centuries, the abbey was one of the main land possessors in the Siena region.

For this day my 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 and 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 are an art lover, this is definitely a must visit. 


Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore


2. A Unique Experience.

Hotels or even B&B’s can be comfortable but they do not offer a ‘unique experience’.

At the Abbey, there is also a beautiful ‘Foresteria’ (Guest house) where the fathers welcome pilgrims from all over the world. With simply furnished rooms facing the breathtaking countryside, relaxation is a guarantee.

3. The Winery!

Believe it or not, the Fathers here also produce wine and I can assure you, it is goooood! Full details on my Wineries section. 

Why visit the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore?

Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
Azienda Agricola Monte Oliveto Maggiore


4. Discovering Picchiarelli Pasta all’aglionre!

I had lunch at this wonderful Agriturismo ‘Le Piazze’, which I discovered during one of our many searches on Monastery Stays.

The family run ‘guesthouse’ 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 freshly cooked meal.

Whatever is on the menu is purchased fresh from the markets that morning! I loved the no menu concept.

Of course, everything was accompanied by a Toscana Rosso from the Abbey’s cellar. 

Moving from Monte Oliveto & San Miniato

Convento di San Francesco in San Miniato

Dedicated to the first martyr Miniato, the construction of this large complex started in 1276 and was completed in 1480, which in these 200 years saw the addition of 6-7 chapels.


Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
Convento San Francesco of San Miniato

A main feature of the Church, without a doubt, is the first alter of the Madonna, painted in 1708, however, many of the artworks and architecture of the church are attributed to a number of artists.

Some of these include, Francesco Curradi, Ridolfo Ghirlandaio, Joannes Maria de Reggys (Beheading of the Baptist), and an unknown painter, creating a bit of mystery around the whole thing. 

In the refectory a large painting of Charles Bambocci with the Dinner of St. Francis and St. Clare, also takes the stage.

Other works include a wooden crucifix of the sixteenth century and a wooden statue of St. Anthony of Padua of the 18th century.

Why visit The Convent of San Francesco

1. Off the Beaten Track.

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. While this church is not impeccably maintained, as many of the other San Franciscan churches around Italy, 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.

Enjoy the Tranquility

All lovers of Italy will thoroughly enjoy a visit to the Monte Oliveto Maggiore and San Miniato, while it is important to point out that these are not huge tourist destinations.

That’s what I loved about them both.

So if you are looking for some relaxation, gorgeous landscape photography spots, art and some great food and wine, then make sure to stop through these gorgeous towns. 


Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
Inside Convento San Francesco of San Miniato

Where to Stay in Monte Oliveto & San Miniato?

Monte Oliveto & San Miniato
Foresteria Convent of San Francesco in San Miniato

Since I am always looking for a unique experience, staying in this Monastery was exactly what I was looking for. 

Masterfully renovated and simple, the rooms are the old cells of the fathers, and they are perfect for a one/two night stay.


How to get to Monte Oliveto & San Miniato

For both Monte Oliveto & San Miniato, the only way to visit is by car. 

Locals actually advised that they would always recommend visiting by car as the bus times are not always precise.

By Car:

Check out where my 1 week drive around Tuscany took me:


Have you been to Monte Oliveto & San Miniato or both and what were your thoughts and experiences during your visit? Please make sure to tell me your story and what you discovered on your trip.

This post has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness and was originally published in 2015. 

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