San Galgano Abbey, located a few kilometers from the hilltop village of Chiusdino, is a breathtaking Cistercian church that always wows any visitor. Designed with 13th-century details and tucked between Tuscan countryside and vineyards, it is known as one of the most suggestive spiritual places in Italy and presents many majestic stories connected to catholicism. From iconic walls to the timeless apse, the Abbey of San Galgano has something to offer everyone.
Although San Galgano Abbey is quite hidden and isolated, it is frequently overcrowded (especially during the summer season) because of its uniqueness and its proximity to the fascinating Hermitage of Montesiepi. The latter is a touching place of worship, connected to the Christian’s story of San Galgano’s sword miracle. Built more than 800 years ago, this spot is a must-see for anyone looking for magic experiences, and historical and cultural enrichment.
Keep on reading, then, to discover why you should absolutely add San Galgano Abbey to your Italy vacation planner.
The legend of San Galgano
The Abbey of San Galgano, with its medieval beauty and grandeur, is an example of gothic architecture and takes its name from the catholic saint Galgano, whose life story still surprises everyone.
According to an Italian legend, Galgano Guidotti (born in 1148 and raised in Chiusdino) was a spoiled guy belonging to a wealthy family. Living in the Maremma and constantly looking for fun and adventures, the young man suddenly became a Christian after Archangel Michael’s apparition. Moreover, it is said that he celebrated this touching moment by piercing a rock with his sword (the so-called ‘spada nella roccia’), thus forming a cross with the hilt. This episode made him a well-known religious character around Tuscany until his retirement in a hut on Monte Siepi. Died in 1181, San Galgano is buried in the chapel next to the iconic spot by order of the bishop of Volterra.
The Abbey of San Galgano
Currently in slight degradation but full of majesty, the Abbey of San Galgano is rich in details related to the Middle Ages. Indeed, you can easily admire its walls and two pointed arch windows on the upper part. Without its roof, destroyed or even sold in the 16th century according to some legends, the church underwent numerous restorations. At the end of the 18th century, it was abandoned to itself.
Now, however, you can still see three naves and four chapels with cross vaults. Attached to the abbey are:
- A cloister.
- A chapter house, where the monks deliberated the rules.
- The scriptorium, where the monks dedicated themselves to the transcription of texts.
The Montesiepi Hermitage
Walking along a path for about 10 minutes from San Galgano Abbey, you can easily reach the Montesiepi Hermitage. Built at the end of the 12th century and older than the church, this is the place where San Galgano lived his last time.
Moreover, the site was consecrated in 1185 (also known as ‘La Rotonda di Montesiepi’) and consists of a small church with a chapel enriched with picturesque Lorenzetti’s frescoes and a bell tower. Not so far away, there is also the saint’s tomb.
The Sword in the Stone
Catholicism reminds its devotees about San Galgano’s 19 miracles. The most famous is the one about the Sword in the Stone (from Italian ‘Spada nella roccia’).
Nowadays, the Stone is well protected and kept in the main center of the Montesiepi Hermitage. There, you will see the sword stuck in a rock (from the 1100s), which recalls the legend of King Arthur and Excalibur. The point of interest is currently protected by a display case to avoid damage from the outside or the crowd.
Best Places to Stay in San Galgano
Despite being in the remote Sienese countryside, San Galgano’s Abbey is close to Chiusdino. This village hosts multiple accommodation options, compatible with any kind of traveler’s necessity. Here’s our updated list of top stays.
Centrally located rented house close to the Abbey
Casa di Franca a San Galgano is a two-bedroom house based in the historical center of Chiusdino and fully equipped with a kitchen and amenities. Characterized by elegant walls and a large terrace, from here you can reach the Abbey of San Galgano on foot and other nearby attractions of the Maremma.
Rural farmhouse next to Chiusdino
At Ca’Novae Agriturismo, you will fully live in the Tuscan countryside. Located in Montieri (a few km from Chiusdino), this farmhouse hosts rented rooms, private bathrooms with a restaurant, and a huge garden. Here, you will be able to easily reach San Galgano’s Abbey, and explore the Maremma and the Sienese countryside.
Cozy cottage among Tuscan hills
At Casa Le Meridiane, you can choose among many room options and use the outstanding outdoor playground or garden to relax or sunbathe. Moreover, it is very close to Chiusdino and it allows you to reach the abbey on foot by admiring the surrounding vegetation.
Restaurants near San Galgano
La Grotta di Tiburzi
Located in Chiusdino, La Grotta di Tiburzi is a typical Italian restaurant close to San Galgano’s Abbey and the heart of the town’s center. With its friendly staff and elegant walls, this place is a small cave furnished and hosted with care. It is highly recommended to taste Italian delicacies such as Tuscan crostini, pici, and local wine.
Saporium Borgo Santo Pietro
Located in Palazzetto, near Chiusdino, Saporium Borgo Santo Pietro is a gem of the culinary field. Surrounded by an oasis of peace, this restaurant offers you plates with new flavors and combinations. We suggest you try the hot bread and their scrambled eggs or roasted lambs. Such a delightful experience for Italian food lovers.
Located in Boccheggiano, among the Maremma hills, La Ciottolona is a gourmet restaurant. It offers delicacies made by its young and famous Chef. We advise you to taste plates with fresh seafood or roasted meat.
Plan your visit to San Galgano
How to get there
San Galgano’s Abbey is a gem tucked between Chiusdino and Siena. This is why you can easily reach it by car or public transport. By car, you can drive from Florence by taking the Firenze-Siena highway and the Colle Val d’Elsa Sud exit. After that, you just have to follow directions to SP73bis until San Galgano. From Siena, you can go to the town by driving through A12 highway and by taking SS1 Aurelia.
Talking about the 2nd option, the smartest way to go to San Galgano by public transport is using a bus. We suggest you take the 116 line which takes about 45 minutes to arrive at Case Piane. From there, you necessarily have to take a rental car or a taxi. If you are coming from abroad, it is possible to fly from your country to Florence or Pisa.
When to Visit
There isn’t an ideal time to visit the Abbey of San Galgano, because it is open the whole year. Anyway, we recommend you go there during the spring or summer season, to avoid the lack of public transportation or lousy weather.
San Galgano’s Abbey is accessible every day and there’s no need to book your visit before going there. However, it is fundamental to buy your ticket at the entrance. There, you will be able to use benefits and discounts based on your status (under 18, over 65, or college student). By now, the visit is free for the Chiusdino community, toddlers, and tour leaders.
Speaking of timetables, you can access the Abbey from 9.00 A.M to 8.00 P.M.
What to visit in the nearby
Thanks to its strategic position, San Galgano is located in the heart of the municipality of Chiusdino, in Southern Tuscany. Consequently, it serves as a perfect alternative stay for visitors who want to reach nearby places like Massa Marittima, Siena, the Chianti area, and San Gimignano.
Just 20 km from the Abbey of San Galgano, Massa Marittima is a mixture of medieval and romantic Ages because of monuments and cultural spots. From Torre del Candeliere to Museo della Miniera, to Cattedrale di San Cerbone and more.
Only 1 hour by car from Chiusdino, Siena is the best option for international tourists and it is full of outstanding historical points. From Duomo to Piazza del Campo, to Torre del Mangia, to Fortezza Medicea.
Not so far away from San Galgano, the Chianti area is a must-stop for wine and Tuscany lovers. Here, you will be able to admire infinite vineyards and green gardens and also cultural spots. From Castello di Brolio to Castello di Meleto, to Castellina in Chianti, to Montefioralle.
Not too far from Chiusdino, San Gimignano is full of historical hints and gorgeous places to admire. You can literally breathe the past. We recommend you visit Piazza Cisterna, Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, and Piazza del Duomo.