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The Hidden Churches of Italy

Stendhal Syndrome, the intense physical and mental symptoms you may experience while or after viewing a work of art or confronting too much beauty, is common to experience in Italy. Especially, when we discover places that leave us in quiet awe, like churches that bless us with their inner beauty. Here is a list of secret churches we hope you explore on your next visit to Italy.

Santuario di Santa Maria dell'Isola di Tropea

A little island in the Tyrrhenian Sea off of Calabria hosts an incredible eleventh-century monastery perched 108 feet above sea level. This symbol of Tropea in southern Italy began as a monks’ hermitage and evolved into a Benedictine sanctuary. In the fourteenth century, it adapted the Gothic style with cross vaults. When in Calabria, the Santa Maria dell’Isola Sanctuary is a favorite destination for travelers, enchanted with the sacredness of the building and the scents of the aromatic garden, a small Eden to see.

Abbazia di San Galgano

Its roof is the sky, its floor the grass. The San Galgano Abbey is a gem of the Tuscan region and perhaps the most representative building of Italy's deconsecrated churches. The Cistercian Priory of San Galgano, with its Gothic architecture, was established in 1218 along a significant route, the Strada Maremmana, where there was an abundance of water. In the thirteenth century, this was the most powerful Cistercian foundation in all of Tuscany.

Eremo di Montesiepi

After visiting the abbey, take a short hike through the woods to reach the Montesiepi Hermitage site, also called “Rotonda” for its circular roof, part of the San Galgano complex and erected in 1185. Saint Galgano settled here after leaving his life as a gallivanting knight to become a simple, prayerful hermit. Legend tells us that Galgano thrust his sword into a stone to create a cross. The sword in the stone still exists for visitors to witness today, and it may have been the inspiration for the King Arthur legend that appeared a few decades later in the Chretien de Troyes’ French bard stories. This hermitage also hosts stunning frescoes by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, a renowned fourteenth-century artist from Siena.

Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara

The monumental complex of Santa Chiara, founded in 1300 AD, is one of the largest and most important monastic complexes in Naples. Its magnificent cloister was transformed in the eighteenth century into a festive garden that gifts visitors with a kaleidoscope of scents, colors, reflections, and experiences of both real and artistically rendered nature. Vibrant tile work covers an array of columns and benches depicting fantastic landscapes and scenes from life.

Chiesa di San Pietro in Portovenere

If you’re wandering through Cinque Terre in the Liguria region you might stumble upon St. Peter’s Church in Portovenere in the province of La Spezia. This is the oldest vestigial church in the gulf and one of the most famous tourist attractions in the area. Located on a rocky outcrop that juts out into the Ligurian Sea, the church’s interior is divided into three naves with a pointed or ogival arch vault. The location and stirring architecture will make this an unforgettable find on your journeys.

Chiesa di Santa Felicita

Standing a few steps from Ponte Vecchio in the center of Florence is a unique church called Santa Felicita. With Roman origins, the church acquired great importance when the Medici family exploited its position for the passage of the Vasari Corridor built above the loggia in front of the entrance in 1565. From this position, the Grand Dukes could attend religious services without having to go down to the hall. But the one-of-a-kind place here is the Capponi Chapel located at the right of the main entrance, commissioned by the Barbadori family around 1422 and later purchased by the nobleman and banker Lodovico di Gino Capponi in 1525 to serve as the family mausoleum. A year later, the artist Jacopo Pontormo was commissioned, along with his assistant Agnolo Bronzino, to paint the fresco interiors. His altarpiece, The Deposition from the Cross, is one the most renowned masterpieces of Italian art.

Barbara Benzoni

 Barbara Benzoni was born in Milan and lives between Rome and Tuscany. She is devoted to USA, the land of courage and innovation. She’s Peter's super-lucky mum and Ale's wife. Cinema, art, good food and only beautiful things are the themes of her existence. With a degree in Italian literature and a Masters in Sports Management she can both enjoys books and basketball matches. In 25 years she has been organizing sport events all over the world and she’s been lucky enough to meet the greatest champs ever. Curiosity in everyday life and people are her drivers. Her personal icon is Mohammed Ali : "It's not bragging if you can back it up".