The HIGHEST SPOT in FLORENCE: Saint Miniato al Monte Abbey

Let’s continue our visits to discover Florence, this time we’ll talk about San Miniato al Monte Abbey. We recommend you to go during a better time than Italian Summer because you’ll have to put some effort into getting there: there’s a very steep climb to make! Anyway, this monument is well worth seeing, keep reading to find out more!

A day trip in Florence

To get to San Miniato al Monte Abbey, you can walk into Florence, go through some alleys to get “fuori porta”, which means beyond the city gates, the extreme periphery of the city, where the countryside usually begins. Before arriving at the Abbey you can find many places to eat, but a particular place caught our attention because some sandwiches names referred to Tuscan idioms, such as:

Giueee!: it’s an exclamation which means “Gosh!”.

Maremma maiala!: an exclamation that expresses disappointment, surprise, discomfort, amazement, fear, or approval.

Brindellone: indicates a scruffy person who dresses sloppy and walks awkwardly; a bit lazy and negligent.

Ganzo: indicates someone who’s exceptionally smart and shrewd, and because of that causes clamor and admiration.

But let’s keep walking to the Abbey… The road is very steep and it’s hard to climb because you have to walk up 273 steps!

The first stop before arriving is Piazzale Michelangelo:

It was realized in 1869 by Giuseppe Poggi when Florence was the capital of Italy, and it’s the most famous panoramic observation point of Florence. In that period the reformation of the city was taking place, so on the left coast of Arno Viale Dei Colli was realized, reaching San Miniato hill, where this terrace and the abbey stand. From the Piazzale, you can spot the most famous monuments of Florence, such as: the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, the National Museum of Bargello, but also the hills north of town, where Fiesole is. Fortunately, when this part of Florence was restored, they made a tree-lined avenue, so there are many trees and plants, which enables you to take a breath and enjoy the shade a bit. From here, you proceed upward and reach the Saint Minato al Monte Abbey.

Saint Miniato al Monte Abbey

To whom is this abbey dedicated?

San Miniato is the Saint to whom it is dedicated, and he’s the first martyr of Florence. It appears that around 250, once he got to Florence, he became a hermit, however, during the Christian persecution he was beheaded. According to legend, the Saint didn’t die after the decapitation, but stuck the head under his arm instead, brought it to the Florentine hill where he had lived as a hermit. On this place a sanctuary and a chapel were built, the construction of the current church started in 1013.

Description

The facade of San Miniato is a Florentine architecture masterpiece that is inspired by Roman monumental buildings. It is divided into two sections: the lower part is characterized by arches with white marble columns, while the top highlights the church structure. On the facade, there are black marble parts and also a mosaic of 1260 representing Christ between the Virgins and Saint Miniato. The bell tower is on the left, it was used as a city artillery deposit in 1500.

The interior of the abbey is entirely decorated: there’s a timber roof truss (a wooden ceiling), the flooring is decorated and you can find a panel depicting the zodiac, there are mosaics and in the Chapel of Crocefisso there was the Miraculous Crucifix, which is in Santa Trinità at the moment.

The Abbey containts a Chapel as well, dedicated to Cardinale James of Lusitania, of passage to Florence, from Portugal. A crypt, a vaulted ceiling, where the column capitals containts traces of gold and the sacristy, decorated with wallpainthings. The whole complex is surrounded by defensive walls, built by Michelangelo during a siege and further restored.

Next to the church there’s the monastery, which from 1924 hosts the Olivetans.

Curiosities

Here, the monks still produce famous liquours, honey and herbal teas, on sale in a shop next to the church. We enjoyed it, and after lots of sun and so much walk, we got a good and fresh lemon granita, as usual. Do you know where the granita comes from? In the territory of Messina in Sicily. Its oldest ancestor surely is the sherbeth, a frozen drink flavored with fruit juice or rosewater brought from Arabs in Sicily during their domination.

This Arabian drink has evolved over the years, thanks to nivaroli: men who, during winter, would collect the snow from Etna and mountains and kept it in icehouses, a kind of caves in particularly cool climate areas. During summer, wealthy families would buy the snow from nirvarolis and consume it to cool off. In particular, the snow would be grated and garnished with lemon skin, getting the so-called grattata. Later, they started to blend snow and salt, to lower the temperature and mix it with a handle, to prevent the formation of bigger ice crystals, thereby getting the traditional texture of the authentic Sicilian granita.
Today the granita is available in many flavours that have joined the traditional lemon one, but there’s something that accompany them all: a soft brioche, with a dough ball on top.

If you already feel thirsty after reading about walking, if you want to drink something and you’re wordering what the most famous italian drinks are, don’t miss the article dedicated to this topic. In fact, I’ll explain how to make five Italian cocktails very famous and also super easy, to do at home, maybe for a good aperitivo with friends.

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