In 2010 we spent five days AT A RENTED FARMHOUSE near Castel del Piano, some 20 km from the Abbey Sant’Antimo. We had heard about this abbey, where you could listen to Gregorian chanting, so we included it in a day trip in our baby Fiat. The tinier the car, the better on Tuscan back roads!
Built between the eleventh and twelfth centuries this monastery is guarded by ancient olive trees. If those trees could talk it would be a very interesting history lesson. The first records of the Abbey date back to 814 in the time of Charlemagne’s son Louis the Pious but it is believed the original monastery dates back even further to 781. In later years it was abandoned until some monks moved in and started renovating in the 1990’s. I liked it for it’s clean yet grand lines and it’s lack of adornment within. Endearingly, the bell tower has a slight lean to it.
Arriving at 12.45 pm we settled down minutes before the Canons dressed in their all white habits drifted through the side door. Settling silently into opposing pews their ethereal chant began. The sound had a purity that matched the integrity of the interior and hovered delicately in the huge space.
By Dongio (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sant’Antimo has been described as one of the best examples of an Italian Abbey at the beginning of the Twelfth Century. It is of the Romanesque era which predated the Gothic. Built on a pilgrim path from northern Europe to Rome called the Via Francigena, pilgrims traditionally found shelter within its walls.
The Abbey stands proudly 10 km south of Montalcino and 50km south of Siena amongst the grapes, cypress and ancient olives in an iconic Tuscan setting. Montalcino is the hilltop home of the famous Brunello di Montalcino wine. Brunello which roughly translates to Little Dark One is made from Sangiovese grapes grown on these particular hill slopes.
How to get there.
I recommend having your own hire car as there is much to see in the area. Lock your valuables out of sight in the boot in this car park to discourage thieves.
If you happen to be staying in Montalcino there are three buses per day (under 2 Euro) to Castelnuovo dell’Abate just a short walk away from the Abbey.
If you have 3 hours to spare there is a walking path leading from Montalcino that delivers you into the abbey’s parking area.
The Best Time to Visit.
At 12.45 mid April we more or less had the place to ourselves. Lonely Planet suggests the morning at which time the sun streams through the Eastern Windows. Others suggest the evening when the abbey is lit up. I have heard reports of bus loads of tourists during the day, which I feel would spoil the chanting, so maybe if you go to the 12.45 you will be lucky like us. Arrive 10 minutes before the time slot to allow a walk around the interior and take photos. As we arrived just on time and left before the service was over we did not feel comfortable taking photos of the inside.
Entrance is Free
For more travel photos head on over to BUDGET TRAVELERS SANDBOX where Nancie hosts Travel Photo Thursday.