Helmut König wrote a message on our main Facebook Page, Visit Tuscany, asking for help:
May I ask you to tell us more about this place near San Gimignano. Unfortunately I have no details. Just some really impressive pictures from the area around the chapel.
If you stop to think that just in Siena there are 82 churches and in Florence 202, you immediately understand how hard can be to identify a small parish church located somewhere in the countryside around San Gimignano. Even if the task was difficult, we decided to take on this challenge and we began to show Helmut's photo to friends and colleagues. We did not know if we would find the solution any time soon, but after few days we finally had a name: Parish church of Saints Ippolito and Cassiano in Conèo. The "Pieve dei Santi Ippolito e Cassiano" is a Catholic church located in Conèo, a small town in the Colle di Val d'Elsa area, not so far from Siena. The building is completely isolated and it's set on the edge of a natural elevation. The scenery is wonderful and the small church is very romantic. We can see why Helmut was so impressed!
The church has a distinctive bicolour facade (which is quite common in the area of Siena and Volterra) and originally the building had three naves and three apses, but nowadays it has just two naves. Probably, the foundations date back to to the mid-twelfth century but it was completed between the late twelfth and early thirteenth century.
The role of the church grew greatly during the twelfth century. The economic rents of the church were good, thanks mainly to the cattle fairs that were held in the valley, but this incomes were very unstable, partly because the people who lived in this area did not guarantee stable revenues during the tithes. During the fifteenth century the church was gradually abandoned to its fate. Between the seventeenth and eighteenth century the patronage of the parish was assigned to the Lords of Picchena; this noble family did not take care to restore the complex and the consequence was that on April 12, 1719 the baptismal font was transferred to the abbey of Conèo, as well as the parish functions. There's an inscription that mention a partial restoration made in 1741, but only in 1982, more than 200 years later, it was possible to restore the entire building thanks to the funding of the Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank.
It is possible to reach this place travelling along the SR68, also known as Volterrana, a winding road that crosses the delightful Tuscan hills. Along this route there are a few good stops, such as Volterra, Colle Val d'Elsa and, obviously, the lovely parish church Saints Ippolito and Cassiano. From the SR68 you have to take a secondary road that leads to the parish church of Saints Ippolito and Cassiano in Conèo. The church is close to Campiglia dei Foci hamlet, from where you can admire the skyline of the Manhattan of middle ages, San Gimignano. There is so much to discover along the SR68 road but you can complete this itinerary in a day, without too much hurry. Insider Tip: do you know that you can visit this church also while you are on a pilgrimage along the Via Francigena? You just have to make a detour of 1 km during the LEG 10 between San Gimignano and Monteriggioni! Read more about this walking trail on the Via Francigena official website: http://bit.ly/LEG10Francigena
We would like to thank Helmut, because his message gave us the opportunity to discover a charming forgotten parish church and to share with all of you this secret! Have you discovered a hidden treasure during your trip to Tuscany? Share it with us in the comments!