3 of the Most Intriguing Hidden Churches in Tuscany
If you’re staying in one of the villas in Tuscany, take the time to seek out some of the more unusual churches of the region. Here are three not to miss.
Renting one of the excellent villas in Tuscany offers the beginning of a journey of discovery of the region. One of the most interesting aspects of the area is exploring its many wonderful churches. Aside from being centres of religious worship, churches served as bastions of last resort during civil wars or were the sites of great political influence. Here are just three of the best churches in the region that are fascinating to visit and learn about in greater detail.
The San Giovanni Fuorcivitas Church in Pistoia
Considering this church is located in a city that has a well-earned reputation for being factious and a place of sorrow (with famous poets Gabrielle D’Annunzio and Dante Alighieri immortalising it in verse), the San Giovanni Fuorcivitas church in Pistoia makes an excellent day trip out from your base in one of the nearby villas in Tuscany. In fact, you'll not just be visiting a church; on its ancient walls you can read the tumultuous history of much bloodshed and strife since the city was founded by descendants of the rebel Lucius Sergio Catalina more than two thousand years ago.
Despite the historical violence, the city exudes a compellingly distinct character that only such a chequered past could have created. Churches, including the San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, were often the sites of conflict that served as the setting of many a battle, particularly between the two warring noble families, the Pianciatichi and the Cancellieri. These days, the level of conservation of the medieval churches in Pistoia and the stories behind them garner deep appreciation.
San Miniato al Monte Basilica in Florence
There's not much left in Florence that could truly be described as ‘hidden’, but we’re including the basilica of San Miniato al Monte here as its location makes it easy for tourists who are unaware of where exactly to look to miss it completely. The major theme of Florentine architecture is Renaissance, so the Basilica, being of the Romanic period and only one of a handful of specimens of such still extant today, serves as a stunning counterpoint. Named after the beheaded martyr, whose death is surrounded by legend, the San Miniato al Monte Basilica is a must-visit if you’re staying at one of the villas in Tuscany within easy access of Florence.
The Chapel of Saint Michael the Archangel in Semifonte
If you’ve visited the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, designed by Brunelleschi, then you should also try to see its miniaturised version. The chapel in Semifonte is only a fifth of the size of the one in Florence, yet what it lacks in magnitude it makes up for it in its other features. The church is surrounded by the rolling hillsides and vines of the Elsa Valley, the serenity of which somehow overshadows its violent history. Several centuries ago, the powerful Florentines besieged Semifonte and utterly destroyed it as a punishment for trying to upstage Florence. The subsequent ban on any further construction has resulted in the church being the only (very beautiful) reminder of what Semifonte has endured through the centuries. If you’re staying at one of the villas in Tuscany within a drive of this region, you should plan a visit to this spectacular site.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Helen Forbes is from Essential Italy, a company specialising in Italian holiday villas, apartments and hotels. If you’re looking for the perfect villas in Tuscany, it can be made so much easier with our help. Our handpicked villas offer distinctive Italian qualities, great comfort and convenience.