of the Madonna di Vitaleta is located in the hills of the Val d’Orcia between
San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza, and offers one of the most iconic views of
Tuscany, justly declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No wonder one can see
pictures of the chapel on the front page of lots of touristic guides of
Tuscany, as it is one of its symbolic treasures. No wonder every tourist stops
along the SS146 to take a picture.
first time we visited Tuscany some 25 years ago, we are obsessed by this small
and precious jewel, surrounded by two rows of cypress trees: every holiday we
made a trip from Cortona to Montalcino we felt an irresistible urge to stop the
car at exactly the same place to make exactly the same photo… in order to take
the ultimate perfect image of the ultimate perfect chapel, with the ultimate
perfect countryside background, and the ultimate perfect colors of sky and
earth….Every time we are still trying to do it better than the last effort.
was built in the 16th century to house the statue of the Madonna of
Vitaleta. According to the legend the Virgin Mary appeared to a shepherdess and
suggested that the devout people of San Quirico should go to a shop in Florence
where they should buy a beautiful glazed ceramic statue of the Madonna, made by
the famous Andrea Della Robbia. The statue is today preserved in the Chiesa
della Madonna di Vitaleta (San Francesco) in the centre of San Quirico d’Orcia.
Every first Sunday of September a feast is held in her honor.
due to a series of seismic shocks, the chapel was abandoned. The chapel as we
see it today was restored in 1884 by a Sienese architect, Giuseppe Partini,
inspired by 16th century models. The façade is now decorated with travertine
stone from Rapolano Terme and a small rose window.
Until a few
years ago the chapel was also a symbol for the ‘unreachable’: situated at
around 800 meters from the road as the crow flies, one could only get to the
chapel via a large detour along a privately owned path, mostly closed by a
barrier. So, every year we needed our 300mm-lens to bring the subject closer…
In 2021 the entrepreneur Pasquale Forte bought
the chapel and started the restoration under the protection of the Fine Arts,
in order to preserve the sacred place, and to generate a touristic revival. (The
buildings on the right side were renovated at the same time).
consequence, the small strada bianca, which was closed for tourists, has
now re-opened! To get there by car, take the SS146 and turn off the road as
soon as you seen the sign for the chapel. After a few hundred meters, you can park
the car and walk to the chapel, about a kilometer away.
wonderful experience it was when we made it for the first time!
could have a closer look and….and take the ultimate perfect image….!
mentioned in the beginning, we are somewhat obsessed by this place. We take
every opportunity to go there and take every chance to get an artistic
souvenir. This is not so simple: in the traditional souvenir shops you don’t
find much choice. Nevertheless we collected a few and we cherish them as
treasures …. one of these is made by the Italian artist Marco Bonechi.
In a shop
in San Quirico we saw a special painting. It inspired us to develop our
artistic creativity after 40 years of slumbering talent, and … shamelessly,
copy this work at home!
remark: One can do beautiful signposted walking tours in the hills of the Val