Tuscan Treasures in Winter Hibernation

December 11, 2013 / Places
Chiusdino, Tuscany

The hilltowns of central Italy slumber in winter hibernation: no tourists at all and not many “locals” affront icy winds blowing through the twisting medieval backstreets. In the tinier towns – like Chiusdino (population 2000) in the province of Siena – the Tourist Office is tightly sealed up, the trattoria is closed for the season – and in the main piazza, you might – or might not – meet “solo quattro gatti“, as the Italians say.


In Chiusdino, we didn’t even see “four cats” in the piazza, just a couple hardy souls, heads down, affronting the chill and one brave woman washing her mop at the local fountain. The local elderly men were of course in the one open café, playing cards. Hanging wash fluttered in the wind and gave touches of color to the gray stone and weathered brick buildings.


Labyrinthine backstreets – typical of medieval fortress towns – wound up to the church of San Michele. I pushed open the heavy door: dark inside and only one small chapel was lit up, housing a peculiar oval object with a sword sticking out of it. A plaque on the wall identified it: the reliquary (in the shape of a “sword-in-the-stone”) held the skull of San Galgano, born here in 1148.


The knight Galgano led a life of debauchery until St. Michael the Archangel appeared to him as he was out riding in the late 12th century. The errant knight’s horse reverently knelt down before the Archangel. Logicamente… the knee print of the horse is miracously embedded in a rock preserved in a small chapel next to San Galgano’s house. Whether his house or not, the Romanesque building is charming and over the door is a plaque depicting San Galgano on horseback before S. Michele Arcangelo.

No visitors at this time, though. Just us in silence as the sun set low on the abbey, the red winter sunset higlighting the Gothic majesty. A Tuscan treasure in winter hibernation.



Anne Robichaud

by Anne Robichaud

An authorized Umbrian tour guide, Anne and her husband Pino worked the land for many years in the 1970’s so rural life, rural people, rural cuisine are una passione for her. See Umbria from “the inside”: join her May 2017 ten-day tour centered on discovering Umbria, Anne’s Umbria.

See www.annesitaly.com for more on her Umbria tours. Do see www.stayassisi.com for news on the Assisi apartment – and Assisi countryside guest house – she and Pino now rent out.

Anne writes frequently on Umbria and other areas of Italy. Read about her annual U.S. Feb/Mar cooking classes and lectures, as well as her numerous Italy insights on her blog.

17 Responses to “Tuscan Treasures in Winter Hibernation”

  1. Evanne Brandon Diner

    Living in a medieval Italian village as we do, the words sound familiar. But just when I think everything is silent, some neighbor takes out a motor driven weed wacker and makes the sound of an enormous hive of bees. Sigh! Welcome to Italia!

    • I guess we just can’t totally get away from the sounds of modern mankind! Still, getting away to a lovely village is my kind of vacation…beautiful!

  2. Ginny Siggia

    I want to be there. Boston insists on rushing along no matter what the season. Hibernation with my knitting or a good book sounds delightful. Cup of cappuccino and a couple of biscuits, un gatto by my side (or trying to push the knitting off my lap to make room for himself), maybe even a fireplace toasting along cheerily. Maybe go out and photograph or sketch ruins and buildings and people. Of course there are daily routines and chores, but life in general would be more sedate and the leisure moments would be the sugar on the cornetto. Can you tell I’m itching to retire?

  3. Ginny Siggia

    PS The walled towns never lose their charm; they endure the elements and resist the winds of capricious change.

  4. Sandra Spector

    Annie, you should really write the book you’ve talked about “Under the Umbrian Moon”. You write so well & gather in the reader. We get a real visual & can feel what you are writing about.
    Of course that’s why your guided walks, lectures etc are so great… you are like that in person .. okay, better!

  5. Great article… when one reads something and it makes you feel without asking your permission, you know you’ve just read something inspirational. Your article did this for me.
    Without hesitation, all things considered urgent disappeared as I saw myself slipping on my hat and coat heading off to play cards with those few brave men. You’re right no cats are out… it’s much to cold.
    Grappa is always better with friends.

  6. Connie Grigsby

    I could just “feel” the winter’s peace and quiet….I hope to see that knee print someday!

  7. Tony Cogan

    Those fortunate enough to ever visit this part of Tuscany should notmiss the nearby Abbey (Abbezia de San Galgano), dedicated to (or established by?) the same saint. Whilst it is now comprised only of walls, it is a magnificent structure and is still used for concerts during the summer.

  8. Kitty Smith

    Just about the most peaceful and truly holy place I’ve ever been–well worth the drive from Siena!

  9. carol weed lundin

    Reading your observations are the next best thing to actually being there.

  10. Selma and Hal Brodbar

    It doesn’t matter the topic: whatever Annie writes about is beautifully articulated with incredible photos. Grazie mille!

  11. Suzanne and Jack

    Dear Annie,
    I knew you were the writer of this Italian Note even before I saw the signature. Your writing is, as I have said before, so evocative. I love the photographs you include. It really makes me feel as if I was there.

  12. Gull-britt Lundstrom

    It is allways so fun reading your notes Anne! I remember Assisi in the winter.It has a special feeling.

  13. At the risk of gushing; I love these totally Italian stories… and so must many of us because they still live after a 1000 years!!! Did not know this one or the town – I will put it on my list of ‘authentic’ Italian towns. Thank you Anne.

  14. Marianna Raccuglia

    There is nothing I can say that is as eloquent as what was written by your “followers” , but I can say – THANK YOU! Your fan, Marianna


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