Religious tourism in Tuscany

by Sandra Massai Fallaci, ph. Alessandro Gambinossi


The Sanctuary of La Verna rises in the midst of the National Park of the Foreste Casentinesi. Its majestic architectural complex overlooks the Casentino. The monastery, which has hosted a community of Franciscan friars since 1260, is surrounded by an impressive forest, still a source of great natural interest to this day. It has reached our times thanks to the skilled work of the Franciscan monks who have taken care of it throughout centuries keeping a flawless balance between man and nature. The main wood is made up of fir trees and beech trees, some reaching a height of 50m and having a diameter of almost 2m. The forest is also characterized by an extraordinary botanical wealth and the presence of a copious wildlife: deer, fallow deer, roe deer, boar, and even wolves. It is not uncommon to also see birds of prey, such as eagles, owls, and peregrine falcons. The history of this sacred place begins with the first hermitage where, during 1213, Francis of Assisi met Count Orlando who gave him this land. Soon after, the little church of Santa Maria degli Angeli was built, but it was the episode of the stigmata which became its definitive symbol. Later there were many additions, and several restorations were needed after the fire during the XV century. Three styles are found inside the sanctuary: Romanesque, gothic, and renaissance. The small church of Santa Maria degli Angeli has one space divided into two parts. Only the bell in the little belfry remains of the first original unit. Inside there are remarkable low reliefs made of glazed terracotta, one of which is attributed to Andrea della Robbia. The buildings are situated around the piazzale del Quadrante, so called because of the sundial placed on the bell tower of the Basilica Maggiore, sanctified in the XVI century. It is accessible via a portico dating back to the same period. The church has a single nave on a Latin cross plan with typical renaissance cross vaults. And here again you come across Andrea della Robbia’s terracotta works, which garnish the inside; St. Francis’s tunic is also found here. All of this, together with the choir in walnut wood and the pipe organ, turns the Basilica into a mystical place full of history. In the square a giant wooden cross stuck in stone recalls the sanctity of the place, while on one side there is the well of the guesthouse, a XVI century cistern used by pilgrims and guests. The Franciscan friars’ community is very hospitable. Tourist accommodations are adequate to the ever increasing interest in religious tourism. It’s possible to take part in prayers, but also to follow many recommended cultural meetings: spiritual exercises, vocational classes, vigils of the stigmata, prayer retreats during special occasions such New Year’s Eve. Personal soul searching can be pursued even outside the Sanctuary, following those same itineraries Francis of Assisi walked along in the XIII century. The historical pharmacy is particularly active with its typical and traditional products.




Via del Santuario, 45

Chiusi della Verna (AR)

Tel. +39 0575 5341


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