On many times happen to wonder where some places of fascinating Italy are, places which end up to bind spontaneously to the collective memory, perhaps for their popularity, or, when they are not know directly, for the simple fact they appear to our view as hearty, attractive and familiar images.
Sometimes these places are massive and complex architectures, other times, much more simply, are the sum of a few lines, a silhouette of hills and trees that stands out on a blue background, a magical blue, the one for what a french student told me, some time ago, only in Tuscany can be seen.
And it is when crossing by bike or by car the Val d’Orcia, on the stretch of the provincial road 146 from San Quirico to Pienza, that you get a way to recognize, almost by surprise, what that, by popularity, is a proper “icon”, photographed by thousands of tourists every year, a symbol – together with the famous crown of cypresses of San Quirico – of the tuscan landscape in the world: the church of the Madonna di Vitaleta.
The building, which because of its small size, the well and the cypress trees flanking it evokes a daily atmosphere, has a surprisingly history of great charm.
To walk backwards the vicissitudes of the chapel, from the provincial road 146 from which the Church can be seen, instead of continuing to Pienza – from where you can reach the chapel – you should return toward San Quirico d’Orcia, and, once in the historical center, you have to visit the church of San Francesco. The 13th century inside of the building has a neoclassical refurbishment, but it still preserves important art works, among which the Annunciation group by Francesco di Valdambrino, and, above the high altar, a beautiful statue representing the Virgin.
It is a glazed terracotta, made into the florentine Della Robbia’s workshop , and it is located in this church since the middle of the nineteenth century, but before then, it was preserved precisely in the little church of Vitaleta.
Object of great veneration from time immemorial, this image of Our Lady has always been relied on by sanquirichesi (the San Quirico townsfolk), especially
when, in the past, in conditions of particular disasters like abundant rains or prolonged drought, from the chapel of Vitaleta, the statue was transported to the church of San Francesco, where, with unceasing prayer, faithfuls asked and obtained the divine intercession in order to abate the scourges that so harshly struck the fields.
A popular story, similar to those of other “miraculous” images, but it doesn’t explain yet why a statue like Vitaleta’s, a great executive quality work, was originally housed inside a small country church.
You can know the answer to the question in the course of the tour in Val d’Orcia that you can book, contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org