During your holidays on the Tuscan coast, would you like to see the coast from a different perspective? Perhaps you’d like to know more about the history, culture and traditions of the area you’re visiting, while nonetheless enjoying the splendid views the region has to offer. If you want to take a break from the beach for a few hours, but you don’t want to be too far away from the sand, here are six churches you should visit.
In the hills near Livorno, you’ll find the famous Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie, nestled atop Montenero. Its foundation is said to be linked to the discovery of an image of the Virgin Mary in 1345 by a poor and crippled shepherd: he decided to bring the painting to Montenero, also known as the “devil’s mountain” and once a secret hide out for bandits. The monks then decided to build a small church in honour of this image, which was considered miraculous. Due to the icon’s increasing popularity, a larger church soon replaced the original, and the building was further expanded in 1575, and again in 1720.
Interestingly, this is also the best place to learn about the ex-votive tradition in Tuscany. The Gallery of ex-voto at the sanctuary is home to one of the largest collections of votive offerings in Italy: about 600 pieces, collected since the early 1800s. This is not only a testimony of faith, but also a mirror of everyday life during different periods in history, detailing the changing customs, transportation methods, jobs, activities and points of view.
One of the many sanctuaries and churches to be found on the Isola d’Elba, this little sanctuary near Capoliveri offers a beautiful view of the Gulf of Lacona. Built in the 16th century on top of a previous Romanesque building, it was altered several times between the 17th and 20th centuries, giving it its current appearance.
A white building located in the hills of Monte Argentario, between Porto Ercole and Porto Santo Stefano: this is the Convent of the Padri Passionisti, where the charm of the Orbetello Lagoon lay at your feet. Surrounded by woods, the convent is also a quiet and shady place, the perfect place for a peaceful afternoon.
Climbing up to the Church of San Pietro Apostolo, you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of the Isola del Giglio. The church is at the centre of the fortified village of Giglio Castello and is home to a 16th-century ivory crucifix by Giambologna and a considerable amount of religious relics. The most venerated of the relics is the arm of San Mamilian: legend says that the inhabitants of Giglio Castello used to show the arm from the top of the city walls to scare away pirates!
Overlooking the crystal-clear waters of Capraia Island is the Church and Convent of Sant’Antonio, which was built by a Franciscan monk in the second half of the 17th century. When the island was turned into a penal colony, open from 1873-1986, the convent became its administrative centre.