Among the gentle hills of the Val d’Orcia, in one of the most romantic areas of Tuscany, the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta is a hidden gem that has recently returned to its former glory.
World Heritage Site since 2004, with its color palettes ranging from ocher to intense green and the sinuous lines dotted with cypresses and ancient farms, the Val d’Orcia has seduced artists and directors of every era. Already celebrated by many Renaissance painters, its unique landscapes have also conquered the Great Cinema becoming an exceptional set for masterpieces such as The Gladiator by Ridley Scott, The English Patient by Anthony Minghella, and Romeo and Juliet by Franco Zeffirelli, just to name a few.
Every corner of this Earth is on loan to us. To give it back intact to future generations is not enough. We have the responsibility to make it better: this is our idea of spirituality.(Pasquale Forte)
The Val d’Orcia extends from Mount Amiata, one of Tuscany’s best-known symbols, to Umbria, drawing a vast countryside area renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, splendidly preserved medieval villages, and fabulous traditional products: from cured meats to cheeses, from oil to wines, especially reds, such as Brunello di Montalcino.
Near San Quirico d’Orcia, immersed in a skyline of rare beauty, we find the small Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta which, with its white façade in Rapolano stone, has become one of the most admired spots in the area. The original structure probably dates back to the late Renaissance but was rebuilt, based on a design by the architect Giuseppe Partini, at the end of the 19th century. The recent restoration has fully recovered the 16th-century project created by Partini, reopening the doors of the small chapel to the public.
Several legends surround this spiritual place so intimate and special, reachable only on foot along a suggestive road surrounded by wheat fields and absolute peace. The most popular ones tells that in the sixteenth century the Virgin Mary appeared to a shepherdess intent on grazing her flocks at the exact point where the building stands today, telling her to go to a famous Florentine workshop where they would have found a statue to take back to the little chapel.
The sculpture of the Virgin by Andrea della Robbia was then moved to the church of the same name in the center of San Quirico, where it can still be visited. Another legend tells that the statue was found, by chance or miracle, by a thirsty shepherd who stopped at the well adjacent to the building to quench his thirst but, lowering the bucket for water, he realized that something was obstructing the passage and, after several attempts, found himself in front of the effigy of the Virgin.
The restoration of the Chapel, carried out thanks to the commitment and vision of the entrepreneur Pasquale Forte, deeply attached to these lands, was completed in 2021, giving visitors a gourmet surprise. Next to the church, there is, in fact, Ristoro Vitaleta; a rustic eatery where you can savor highly selected Tuscan delicacies while enjoying a spectacular panorama. Most of the organic and biodynamic excellences proposed on the menu are produced in Podere Forte, another property of the entrepreneur, such as oil, wines, and cured meats like the tasty bresaola from Cinta Senese.
The visit at dawn, accompanied only by the sound of your footsteps, is a truly magnificent experience. Likewise at sunset, do not miss to enjoy a panoramic aperitif or a romantic dinner at the Ristoro, followed by a return home under a vault of stars.
The cypress, one of the icons of Tuscany and, in particular, of the Val d’Orcia, is a tree with multiple and fascinating symbols. The imagery of this plant is often linked to religious or monumental places with an ambivalent meaning of life and death. The Persians saw in its form the image of a flame, a symbol of life and immortality, and the same happens in the Tuscan countryside, where it is often found in sanctuaries or at the entrances of farms. It is also tradition, at the birth of a child, to plant a cypress to honor the new life.
Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta
53027 San Quirico d’Orcia, Siena
The Chapel remains open and can be visited during the opening hours of the Ristoro Vitaleta. For more information: +39 345 826 4671.