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Photo © Googlisti
Photo © Googlisti

Saints and history in Chiusdino

Explore the land of Saint Galgano with this kid-friendly itinerary

There’s a village deep in the province of Siena that vaunts a wealth of treasures that could rival the grandeur of the area’s capital city. We’re talking about Chiusdino, a 2,000-strong hilltop town with roots stretching all the way back to the 6th century CE, when the Lombards made their way down the peninsula and settled in the area. The town is famed for being the birthplace of Saint Galgano, with the namesake abbey located just beyond the its borders. Though small, Chiusdino and the surrounding area has plenty to show for itself, making it the perfect place for a day trip with the family, especially if you’re based in Siena, which is only 45 minutes away by car.

Chiusdino - Credit: LigaDue

Our tour begins in the historic centre of Chiusdino, a neighbourhood known as Portino. In piazza Garibaldi, you can enjoy a stunning view of the valley below. Kids will love exploring the quaint medieval streets, each of which hides unexpected corners, staircases and dead-ends, like a millennia-old maze. From the piazza, head upward along via Roma, which passes by the Church of San Martino on the way, a splendid parish church built in the 12th century. As you continue climbing the hill, make sure to stop to check out the Parish Church of San Michele Arcangelo, home to a few interesting sites, including two paintings of Saint Galgano in Prayer and Our Lady of the Rosary by the 16th-century painter Alessandro Casolani. Perhaps more curious still is the church’s beloved reliquary, which holds the head of Saint Galgano! In 1977, the relic was given back to Chiusdino by Siena, where it was previously conserved. To learn more about the saint, you can visit his birthplace on via Paolo Mascagni, today a chapel, before exploring the Diocesan Museum of Sacred Art, which conserves a wealth of artworks depicting the saint and liturgical objects coming from churches and monasteries in the area.

Cinta Senese meat
Cinta Senese meat - Credit: Consorzio tutela Cinta Senese

After exploring Chiusdino’s winding streets, you’ll probably be hungry. The town is dotted with restaurants and traditional osterie vaunting a delicious range of typical products from the area, like Cinta Senese meat, mushrooms, chestnuts and Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG and DOCG Reserve.

San Galgano Abbey
San Galgano Abbey - Credit: Steven dosRemedios

After you’ve had your fill of scrumptious Tuscan food, let’s head to the Abbey of San Galgano, a ruined Cistercian church in the middle of the Val di Merse. After Galgano, who lived here as a hermit, died in 1181, the Cistercian monks built a hermitage and church in honour of him. In 1300, the Abbey was devastated by the troops commanded by Giovanni Acuto and in the 1400s, it began to decline into ruin, eventually being abandoned by the monastic orders.

San Galgano's sword in the rock
San Galgano's sword in the rock

Kids will be excited to head uphill to the Rotonda di Montesiepi, a hermitage that conserves something rather spectacular: Tuscany’s very own Excalibur! Legend says that Saint Galgano plunged the sword into a rock when he decided to abandon his life as a wealthy gentleman. Scientific analyses have proven that the sword dates to the period in which Galgano lived… so you never know!

As the day winds down, you’ll probably want to make plans for dinner. But instead of sitting down at another restaurant, why not make your dinner at a Tuscan cooking school? This fun activity is a typical experience to be had when holidaying in the famed Italian region, and the area around Chiusdino is the perfect place to have it. On the way to our afternoon stop, take a break in Palazzetto, home to the Borgo Cooking School, where you can learn to make traditional Italian dishes from a real nonna, that beloved Italian grandmother. For an exclusively kid-friendly experience, the Tenuta di Spannocchia offers cooking classes for kids aged 6 to 10, allowing them to pick their own vegetables in the garden before discovering how these ingredients are transformed into tasty dishes. Alternatively, you can head off in the opposite direction for food-filled fun at the agriturismo Podere i Monti, a farm stay that offers not only a cooking class, but other exciting activities like a mushroom, chestnut and even wild asparagus gathering! Delicious, no?

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