madonna di vitaleta

Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta: Iconic Tuscan Church

Have you heard of the Madonna di Vitaleta story? The road between San Quirico d’Orcia and Pienza is incredibly scenic with stunning viewpoints. The highlight is this charming chapel, located on a hill ridge and surrounded by beautiful cypress trees

According to the legend, during the Renaissance, the Beta Virgin Mary appeared to believers near a chapel in Tuscany’s countryside. She requested them to find a statue of the Madonna in a Florence workshop and place it in the chapel on a hill surrounded by cypress trees near San Quirico d’Orcia.

The enchanting and fascinating Madonna di Vitaleta church in San Quirico d’Orcia is home to a magnificent statue crafted by Andrea Della Robbia, who hailed from a famous family of Florentine sculptors and ceramists. The statue has been there since 1870, and it’s believed that it adds to the legend of the church’s past.

Today, San Quirico d’Orcia also celebrates the “Festa della Madonna di Vitaleta” between August and September. The parish hosts religious events, while the two days are reserved for shows in the square. On Sundays, there is a solemn morning mass followed by a band concert in the evening. The day ends with a spectacular fireworks display.

What is Madonna di Vitaleta the most photographed church in Tuscany?

The church itself is a marvel to behold, retaining its Renaissance structure and aesthetics, and possibly even reflecting an earlier era – it is assumed that it was built on the extension of an older tabernacle and that for many years it was the place of adoration of the simulacrum of the Virgin of Consolation. Its location in the middle of a rural landscape, surrounded by two rows of cypress trees, creates a magical atmosphere. You can only get there on foot after walking along the classic avenue of cypress trees that characterizes Tuscany.

Visiting the church at different times of the day is an incredible experience. At sunset, there is a soft light that bathes the area, while at dawn, you get a different kind of light that produces extraordinary effects on the warm colors of the chapel’s materials. Each season has its own unique charm, with summer offering bright blues and greens, autumn offering moderate orange, burnt earth, and ochre, winter offering a realm of silence and peace, and spring bringing new life and enthusiasm to visitors.

The church has a single hall, with its main façade clad in Rapolano stone and bordered by pilasters – those vertical pillars that protrude from a wall with a decorative function usually repeated rhythmically –. On the sides are two adjoining round-arched belfries, and a bell gable stands tall at the top. The chapel is privately owned and falls within the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Siena-Colle di Val d’Elsa-Montalcino.

Madonna di Vitaleta
Madonna di Vitaleta

How to reach the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta

If you’re planning to visit the chapel by car, you can take the Strada Provinciale 146 that connects San Quirico d’Orcia to Pienza, and turn it off as soon as you see the sign for the chapel. After a short drive on a dirt road, you’ll need to park the car and walk the rest of the way to the chapel, which is about a kilometer away.

Alternatively, if you enjoy walking, you can take the Strada Provinciale 146 and follow a small road that’s surrounded by olive groves until you reach the sign for the chapel. If you’re coming from Pienza, there’s a backroad that starts from the parish church in Corsignano that you can follow on foot to reach the chapel.

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