Since my visit to Tuscany, Italy, I am often asked about the most memorable place I experienced there. While the trip was filled with many unforgettable views and moments, visiting the Hermitage of Montecasale was one the most moving experiences of my travels.
The humble, historically significant structure was an unexpected highlight of the trip and a place I recommend you visit if you ever have the opportunity – even if you are not a religious person.
Located in Sansepolcro, near Arezzo in central Italy, the Hermitage of Montecasale dates back to 1192, when it was created by the Camaldolese monks. Given to Saint Francis in 1213, the Hermitage of Montecasale features simplistic stone architecture.
Simple Architecture, Breathtaking Views
The architecture may be simple, but the surrounding property is breathtaking, even on a foggy day like the one we visited. The place is steeped in a sense of religious history and meaning.
The building, which still functions as a monastery, is home to three Order of Friars Minor Capuchin monks, one of whom we met. It has a modest sanctuary, and an elaborate wooden altar, and houses many ancient artifacts.
On our visit, we experienced some of the spiritual significance of the building as we witnessed a woman make an emotional exit from one of the confessionals. We were able to crawl into the tiny, primitive spaces in the rock walls that served as the monks’ rooms.
We also climbed into the crevice where St. Francis is said to have prayed and slept and walked through the gardens that date back to his time there.
A statue of Saint Francis sits on a wall outside the structure, overlooking the Italian countryside and the Dolomite mountains. As I stood, taking in the view, I thought about the fact that I had considered skipping the trip to Montecasale in favor of a day trip to Florence.
I am so grateful I experienced the ancient spot that inspires visitors to be still and take in the peaceful, vast beauty of nature. Standing in the thousand-year-old structure filled with relics and modern-day, Teva-wearing monks reminded me of the connection between past and present.