Fires and bombs nearly destroyed the medieval Convent of the Santucce nuns…
As I gazed up in awe, I couldn’t help but wonder how many intriguing lives and captivating legends were contained within these massive walls. The carefully restored 13th-century convent rose high above us toward the cloudless blue sky. Residence Le Santucce is a stately presence among the surrounding Tuscan hills in the town of Castiglion Fiorentino.
We were greeted with a warm welcome by Luisella, the proprietor of the convent. Sweet, lovely and all smiles, Luisella took us through intriguing nooks and crannies up to our apartment. We used the stairs but an elevator was also an option.
Unique Convent Interior ~
I was not prepared for the extent of the artistic and innovative decor of the interior rooms and hallways. The loving hands and minds of Luisella’s parents, Alfeo and Miranda Tanganelli, worked hard for nearly 10 years to develop a unique style for the old convent. Without adjusting the curves and height, a careful restoration was completed that took into consideration the original remaining architecture.
Below is a photo of the small foyer outside our apartment that leads to the back door, adorned with lace. Wooden beams crossed the ceilings, adding to the warmth and character of the rooms.
Number 7 was our apartment for a few nights. We loved the soft lighting and pleasant, peach hues. The residence offers bedrooms, small apartments, and common areas to stay and relax in.
Inside our apartment, we stepped into the living room with a kitchen toward the back. Straight ahead through french doors was the spacious red brick terrace rimmed with a decorative black wrought iron railing. It was perfect for our late afternoon aperitivo, complete with panoramic views of Castiglion Fiorentino and the surrounding countryside. I could faintly hear the cheering of a distant soccer game from a sports field below. During our visit, I noticed the various shades of natural light that bathed the trees and walls of buildings.
The wooden beams and brickwork added to the cozy feel of the rooms. The kitchen was well-equipped, cheery and very clean. One of the two bedrooms was a loft above the kitchen.
Outside on our terrace, the golden glow of sunlight began to give way to a rosy hue as the late afternoon progressed. The sounds of silence and the feeling of peace and tranquility made it difficult to leave as the darkness grew.
A Bit of History ~
Benedictine Nuns from Cozzano, seeking safety, first inhabited the building complex in the year 1234. Expansion of the convent took place in 1470 which included the construction of a new church. Later, an unfortunate fire in 1707 collapsed a part of the convent and the adjoining church which was eventually restored.
The Order of the Santucce closed in 1810 and the convent became privately owned and divided into apartments.
The bombardment of Castiglion Fiorentino during the second world war left the convent partially destroyed. With a long-standing labor of love, local engineer Alfeo Tanganelli with his wife, Miranda, purchased the convent and carefully restored the structure to its original dimensions. Reconstruction began in 1997 and was completed a decade later in 2007.
Miranda is a talented artist and decorator who has used her skills to create an elegant balance to the interior rooms. Warm rich colors combine well with touches of her own delicate handmade lace, pillows, and softly hung draperies. I was impressed by the thoughtful consideration that went into furnishing each of the rooms.
The apartment below holds a secret. To the left, you will see green patterned curtains which appear to be shallow closets. On closer inspection, Luisella pointed out the original kneeling pads on the floor that were used by the nuns as they looked down over the partial wall to observe the service below. Only their covered heads could be seen. There is a complete wall now but the indentation of the original partial wall is still noticeable.
The lofty entrance to Residence Le Santucce was warm and welcoming. I especially enjoyed the play of light in the shape of an arch on the door.
Around the Town ~
We took an afternoon tour with Eduardo, a local guide arranged by Luca, Luisella’s husband. We learned a lot about the town and its early Etruscan roots.
We began at the massive wooden doors that stand at Porta Fiorentina, one of the three old original gates to the walled medieval town. We all felt dwarfed by it. Eduardo pointed out the knocker and small opening in the door once used by the guard to speak with those seeking to enter.
Our stroll through the small town took us upward and provided many lovely bits of scenery and architecture to photograph.
At the top of the town are the remains of Torre del Cassero and adjoining wall in the midst of a large grassy area. From here we enjoyed panoramic views of the Val di Chiana valley below.
The nearby Municipal Art Gallery, the Archaeological Museum and 12th century Church of Sant’Angelo include an Etruscan museum with many artifacts including sculptures and pottery. Below the church was discovered an Etruscan temple and wall dating from the 4th century BC.
Eduardo explained that during the olive and grape harvest, everyone who can help with the harvest rolls up their sleeves and works together. He works as a teacher in a local grade school, but he also helps with the local harvest each year as part of the community.
Castello di Montecchio, complete with turrets and battlements, sits on an adjacent hill 4 km from Castiglion Fiorentino. A survey map from 1503 by Leonardo da Vinci, names and locates the castle. However, it was first recorded in documents from 1014.
Of interest to note, British mercenary, Sir John Hawkwood, resided here for a time. Today, it remains a private residence overlooking the Val di Chiana valley. Although we were unable to see the castle interior, private tours are available to the public.
Our time at Residence Le Santucce was refreshing, peaceful, and quiet. I especially enjoyed the medieval surroundings with nearby bars, shops, and museums. The local residents were friendly and loved to engage in conversations. The tranquil ambiance and central location make Residence Le Santucce a perfect place to come back to.
Things to do:
- I highly recommend a short tour of Castiglion Fiorentino with a guide. Residence Le Santucce can set one up for you if you let them know. This is the best way to get to know the history and culture as well as where the good restaurants are.
- Visit the Etruscan museum and go for an aperitivo afterward.
- Pack a picnic lunch and visit, or bicycle to, the nearby Castello di Montecchio. As you tour the grounds, imagine what it was like to live here back in the day.
- Take a day trip and visit some of the nearby hill towns. A map of them is available from Le Santucce. The town of Arezzo is full of medieval monuments and intriguing history/festivals. Contact Sandra Giusti at Arezzo Guide for a short, informative and fun tour. She also gives tours in Florence.