Welcome to Santuario della Verna.
Welcome to Santuario della Verna, located 130km from Florence, in the National Park of the Casentino Forests and in the north east of Tuscany.
Famed for being the place where St. Francis of Assisi received the stigmata on September 17, 1224, this sanctuary rises 1128 meters high on the southern part of Mount Penna and is home to numerous chapels, places of prayer and meditation, as well as several points of considerable religious importance.
Santuario della Verna is also an important focal point for those pilgrims embarking on the Via Francigena.
Why Visit – Santuario Della Verna?
My tour for the day was with Fra Marco, Director of the Sanctuary, and I was quite fortunate to have had such a well prepared guide.
Make sure to ask if one of the monks is available if you speak/understand Italian, otherwise, the Fathers will be happy to organize a tour guide for you in English.
1. Santuario della Verna is an Icon
An icon of Franciscan beliefs, it is possible to grasp the many artistic, cultural, historical and religious aspects, of this amazing and serene sanctuary.
2. The Corridor of the Stigmata
Built between 1578 and 1582 to provide the Brothers shelter from winter, this corridor leads to where Francis received the Stigmata.
A daily procession takes place everyday at 3:00pm, a ritual since 1431!
Here you will also find 21 paintings from the life of St. Francis, in particular those concerning his time at Santuario della Verna.
Legend has it that one winter night the Brothers had to give up on the procession, due to a terrible snow storm however, the following morning, they found imprinted in the snow the footsteps of the animals of the forest who had completed the procession in their place.
3. The Sasso Spicco
Explore the huge 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!
4. Della Robbia artistic heritage
For more than a century, the Della Robbia Family, a large family of sculptors and potters who, by the fourth decade of the ‘400, worked in Florence.
The ‘master’ Luca della Robbia, the most significant artist of the Della Robbia family, started working on the Santuario della Verna before his nephew, Andrea Della Robbia, took over.
Andrea was inspired by his teacher and was known for his white and blue ceramic pieces that you will find through the various chapels of Santuario della Verna.
Over time the sons of Andrea, in particular John Della Robbia, will continue this noble art and you will find these throughout the Sanctuary.
5. The views and overall Experience
While an important stop for pilgrims, Santuario della Verna provides a unique experience in the wonderful Tuscan countryside.
In my humble opinion a great item to add to your Italian itinerary.
Do not forget the amazing views and at 1128 meters above sea level are truly incredible.
6. The Medieval Pharmacy
Every now and then the Fathers will allow a brief look in the amazing world of medicine, from the 12th-13th centuries!
See the agonising practices used to cure a tooth ache or a head ache – it is not pretty but incredibly fascinating.
Please do note that the pharmacy is rarely open to the public/guests.
The pilgrims, visiting the Santuario della Verna, still honor one of the most important figures in the Roman Catholic Church (St. Francis), more than eight hundred years after his death.
For more history and information on this amazing venue see the Official Santuario della Verna Website.
Where to Stay in Santuario della Verna?
Booked through Monastery Stays, I spent one night in the Foresteria of this beautiful sanctuary.
The rooms, the old cells of the Fathers, are modern yet simple and meals are also available on site 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.
How to get to Santuario della Verna
The closest town, Chiusi della Verna, is located 4 km from the sanctuary and it is possible to drive or take the bus.
I would strongly recommend driving when visiting the Italian countryside.
If you are lucky, you can walk into one of the bars in Chiusi della Verna and ask if one of the friendly locals can call you a private taxi. Otherwise, your only alternative is to take on the 4km hike to the sanctuary.
Please note that in winter the city does get deserted.
From Florence (or Rome) you will need to take a train to Arezzo, from where you will have to change train and get a ticked to Bibbiena. These tickets can be purchased online at Trenitalia (link).
From Florence there is a bus directly to Bibbiena and you can get the latest information at etruriamobilita.
From the Bibbiena train station, take the LFH11 or LFH12 bus to Chiusi della Verna.
Once at the main piazza in Chiusi della Verna there is a bus to the Santuario, however, this service is only available during summer.
*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, Santuario della Verna can be reached on foot via the Via Francigena!
While I have never embarked on this incredible journey, the people I met during my visit started from Florence and were on their way to Rome.
Fra Marco told me that for those walking the Via Francigena, free lodging is offered.
Check out the official website of the Via Francigena.
Google Map from Florence to Santuario della Verna
Have you been to Santuario della Verna or have you tried the Via Francigena?
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Authors Note: This post was originally published in 2015 and has been completely revamped for accuracy and comprehensiveness.