One of Tuscany’s most beautiful sights, the Abbey of Sant'Antimo (Abbazia di Sant'Antimo) is a 12th-century Romanesque church and monastery set deep in the rolling olive groves outside the hilltown of Montalcino in the Val d'Orcia. The abbey is a popular stop during wine tours or day trips through the Tuscan countryside.
Constructed of cream-colored travertine, the oldest of the abbey’s chapels is believed to have been founded by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne, though its apse, frescoed radial chapels, and cloisters were completed centuries later. The Romanesque facade is carved with figures of the Apostles, while the stately bell tower is decorated in Lombard style. Thanks to its proximity to the Via Francigena pilgrimage route between France and Rome, Sant'Antimo was one of the most powerful Benedictine abbeys in Tuscany before Pope Pius II closed it in 1462. During its deconsecrated years, the church was used as a wine cellar and a cow shed, becoming an active place of worship again only in 1992.
The Sant'Antimo Abbey is a popular stop on day trips to Tuscany from Rome, Florence, and Siena that explore the countryside surrounding Montalcino, Montepulciano, Pienza, and San Quirico d'Orcia. One-day sightseeing tours generally include lunch with a tasting of local Brunello di Montalcino wine.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Like most Italian churches and monasteries, the abbey requires modest clothing covering shoulders and knees to enter.
- The rolling hills of the Val d'Orcia and wooded slopes of Monte Amiata comprise one of the most picturesque corners of Italy, so be sure to bring your camera.
- The abbey is accessible to wheelchair users, but if your visit is part of a wine tour, wineries may not be. Check in advance.
How to Get There
The abbey is near Castelnuovo dell’Abate, 5.5 miles (9 kilometers) south of Montalcino. There is no public transportation directly to the abbey, so the most convenient way to visit is by joining a small-group or private tour that includes transportation.
When to Get There
The abbey is open for visits daily year-round. The Val d'Orcia is particularly beautiful in the late spring and early fall, when the countryside is lush and green.
The Abbey of Sant'Antimo was once famous for the daily Mass sung in Gregorian chant by the resident Benedictines, but the monks have left the complex and now Mass is exclusively spoken.