This is a barn-like Gothic church. It was began in 1226 and the belltower was added in 1340.
Inside is an exquisite chapel dedicated to St Catherine, built in 1460 to store her preserved head (now the head is kept in a gilged marble tabernacle on the altar).
Remote location, Crete Senesi: Monte Oliveto
In retrospective this is one of the things I deeply regret: not having waited one more hour until the abbazia would open again. I was on my way back to Siena from Gubbio on a Sunday around noon and drove through Crete Senesi on my search for the marvellous erosion I once saw photos of (see above). This was how I got to Abbazia Monte Oliveto Maggiore, because the erosion can be seen from the parking lot. It was around noon, I was hungry so I had something to eat in the Bar La Torre Di Monte Oliveto (ok, on the more expensive side, but nothing to write home about). After lunch I walked down to the abbazia ground to see that it wasn’t open during lunchtime (of course... what did I expect?). Because it was starting to rain, I decided that I won’t wait this one hour and drive back to Siena. Oh my, what a silly decision.....
From descriptions in books and internet I know now what I have missed: a famed fresco cycle made by Luca Signorelli, the same who has painted the Last Judgement in Orvieto’s cathedral. I also have missed the Gregorian Chants the Benedictine monks sing late afternoon at around 6 p.m. And I have missed to browse through the goods the monks are selling in their shop: finest oils, soaps and liqueurs.
There is always a next time. And despite my dislike of Toscana (because of the overall hype and because so many travellers reduce Italy to Toscana only) Monte Oliveto Maggiore is one reason for me to come back, and if it is only as a day trip from my most favourite Italian region, Umbria.
Opening hours of the abbazia:
Summer: 9:15 – 12:00, 15:15 – 18:00
Winter: 9:15 – 12:00, 15:15 – 17:00
photos of the frescoes,
English description of Monte Oliveto.
Abbazia Monte Oliveto Maggiore on Google Maps
© Ingrid D., December 2010.
Don't miss their sfogliatina calda affumicata!
THIS IS A VERY EXCLUSIVE RESTAURANT LOCATED BETWEEN PIAZZA DEL CAMPO AND THE DUOMO. THE BUILDING WHICH HOSTS THE RESTAURANT IS FROM THE 12TH CENTURY. BEST COURSES ARE THE ANTIPASTO AL MARSILI, WHICH IS A HUGE STARTED COMPOSED OF SFOGLIATINA CALDA AFFUMICATA, SALAD OF SIENA GOAT CHEESE, CROSTINI NERI AND BRUSCHETTA.
ALSO, AMONG THE PASTAS, DON'T MISS THE TORTELLONI WITH RUCOLA AND PINENUTS, PICI WITH PORCINI MUSHROOMS AND MANY MANY MORE.
In my eyes this is definitely the loveliest Campo in Italy with a nice view on the Palazzo Pubblico, many (expensive) cafes, artists, lots of sun and the Fonte Gaia, the joyful fountain in the middle.
Come here, sit down in the sun, ignore the thousands of tourists and enjoy the atmosphere.
Siena's great Cathedral was begun in the 12th century in the Romanesque style but was transformed in the 13th century into one of the finest examples of Italian Gothic. The Sienese had planned to remodel the Cathedral in 1308 to create one of the biggest buildings in Christendom. The project was abandoned within five years, after the Black Death swept the town and killed more than a third of Siena's population. There were too few men to complete a building on such a colossal scale. Some sources say that is false assertion and that only reason was lack of money.
This splendid building is on of the most beautiful Italian Cathedrals and thypical example of Italian Gothic. The façade is really colourfull and fine with the imposing marble walls enlivened with alternate pink and black stripes or rather dark and green and the nice mosaics.
The walls and columns of the church's interior are covered with black and white marble, and its marble floors have decorative inlays by Domenico Beccafumi. A magnificent baptismal font with bas-reliefs by Jacopo della Quercia, Donatello, and Lorenzo Ghiberti distinguishes the Church of San Giovanni, which serves as the crypt for the cathedral. There are many other great works of art in every corner of the Cathedral.