Most people in the world knows about the canals in Venice or the Colosseum. However, this pandemic brought light to a secret Italy not even Italians are aware of.
Are you eager to discover a secret pearl in the Tuscan valley? You’re in the right place: “meet” Lucignano, the “Val di Chiana'' pearl.
Lucignano is a medieval borgo (Italian for village) located in the charming hills of Tuscany. What makes this small town unique is its elliptical structure based on concentric rings.
Lucignano has received many awards by popular tourist organizations. In 2001, Lucignano was selected to be a part of the renowned list of “I Borghi più belli d'Italia'' (“The Most Beautiful Italian Borghi”), an association of small towns that aims to preserve the atmosphere and traditions of villages of quality heritage. Similarly, the Italian Touring Club awarded Lucignano an orange flag which ensures a great quality of vacation. The quality of a vacation in Lucignano is also guaranteed by the orange flag awarded by the Italian Touring Club.
History, art, and nature combine together perfectly in this Tuscan borgo. There is such a varied number of places to visit and activities to do that I thought I’d share with you 7 reasons why I would personally visit Lucignano.
Let’s get started.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Italy was in the international spotlight because it had been the clear demonstration that the virus was not circumscribed only to China. The number of cases skyrocketed in March 2020 and the tourism industry was severely hit.
Now, after almost a year since the start of the pandemic, Italy is in the top 10 most vaccinated countries in the world, and thanks to its strict guidelines preventing the spreading of COVID-19, it’s one of the safest destinations in Europe.
Shockingly,A fun fact is that there are several towns in Italy that actually benefited from the pandemic. that were not impacted which not only didn’t get damaged by the pandemic - they benefited from it. Lucignano, for example, along with many other small villages, has seen its number of visitors increase by almost 70% in 2020.
According to CNN, travel restrictions adopted by the Italian government have helped people rediscover small villages, preferring places full of artistic and natural heritage to more crowded and riskier urban settlements.
By no surprise, Lucignano has been included by CNN on the list of the safest cities in Italy since it guarantees social distancing and the observance of guidelines that prevent the spreading of COVID-19 . Differently from the big cities where tourism the visit experience has been cut back, this Tuscan borgo offers visitors the real Italian experience, withholding contact of any restriction.
Although it counts only 3,500 residents, Lucignano is rich in places to visit —, especially churches. For centuries, kings and architects have succeeded one another, leaving the town the heritage of century-old monuments in the town.
The most important church in Lucignano is St. Francis Church, located in the homonym square in the city center (you can’t miss it!). Built between the 2nd and 3rd century, it’s a Romanesque- and Gothic-style Roman Catholic church.
St. Francis Church in Lucignano, Tuscany. Source e-Borghi.
From the outside, you can see the church’s bicolored (travertine marble and pietra serena) facade with a big rose window in the middle. Inside, frescoes depicting scenes from the life of the saints are a feast for the eyes!.
Fresco in St. Francis’ Church. Source Il Viaggiatore Curioso.
Another church I want you to visit is the Collegiate Church of San Michele Arcangelo. It was built in 1621 on the remains of the destroyed Church of St. Michael Archangel. The facade is divided in two parts: the lower part built of bricks, the upper one built of stone. Also, note the complexity of the external stairs and the bell tower, both designed by the architect Andrea Pozzo.
Collegiate of San Michele Arcangelo. Source Le Cantine.
There is also another important thing about this church, but you won’t be able to see it since- it’s a mysterious legend! The story goes that an imaginary line (Saint Michael’s line) perfectly connects various monasteries dedicated to St Michael perfectly aligned (Mont San Michel in France is the most famous) from Ireland to Israel. Mont Saint Michel, in France, is the most famous “connected” dot.
It can’t be established if their alignment was planned or, in any way, meaningful. But this Dan Brown Da Vinci’s Code’s mystery is certainly another reason to visit Lucignano.
Map of Saint Michael’s line. Source: ArcheoTravel.
Tuscany is celebrated all over Italy for its delicious typical foods and wines. Lucignano, in this case, is no exception to the rule. Each meal you eat in the borgo will stay in your memories for quite some time! Every meal you can get inside the borgo won’t make you forget easily your vacation.
Among all the foods you can try in Lucignano, there is one that will leave you speechless: the Chianina meat. This meat, derived from the oldest breed of cattle in the world, is certified IGP (Protected Geographical Indication), and is used to make the famous Fiorentina steak.
Fiorentina steak “di Chianina” (from Chianina meat). Source: Torre a Cenaia.
Another can’t-miss dish is panzanella. This food of humble origins is made of stale bread, onion, basil, vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil, and can be enriched with different types of vegetables.
The original Panzanella - a dish typical of the Arezzo area. Source Arezzo Notizie.
Another dish for your Lucignano bucket list is pici, a type of thicker (and shorter) homemade spaghetti. It’s superb when dressed with gravy made from geese!
These look like spaghetti, but they’re the Pici of Val di Chiana! Source: Sparkinlife.
And of course, we can’t forgetas a last item, I couldn’t miss the wine! Do you remember the Chianina steak I introduced to you a few paragraphs above? Well, that delicious Chianina steak would go perfectly with a nice, bold red wine. The entire area around Lucignano is famous for the production of one of the most refined Italian red wines: Chianti. For this reason, a stay in Lucignano is not complete without a sip (even two!) of Chianti wine.
If you like religious art, the town museum in Lucignano will not disappoint you. Founded in 1924, it is located on the ground floor of Palazzo Pretorio.
The museum is divided into four halls, with the majority of the collection dating back to a period ranging from the 13th to the 17th century. Every piece is inspired by the Christian faith.
The most famous paintings are “Madonna col bambino” and “Crocifissione”.
Painting of Madonna col Bambino (1) and Crocefissione (Crucifixion) (2) in the town museum of Lucignano. Source: Visit Lucignano.
However, the real heart of the museum is the Golden Tree of Lucignano. The tree (also called Tree of Love, or Tree of Life) is a unique example of a reliceliquary where splinters of Jesus’s cross were once conserved inside. It is made of golden copper and decorated with crystals and corals. The manufacturing took 120 years, making this relice reliquary highly valuable.
The Golden Tree, where splinters of Jesus cross were once conserved inside. Source: Visit Lucignano.
If during your stay in Lucignano you want to turn on yourthe explorer mode and venture outside of the town, there is good news for you: Lucignano is very well positioned. Indeed, in the past, the town was a major point of contention between adjacent reigns because of its strategic position and proximity to the most important cities in Tuscany.
For the modern tourist like you, this represents a huge advantage because you can create endless itineraries (but if you need help crafting your perfect one, we can do it for you!). As a matter of fact, Lucignano is 17 miles (28km) away from Arezzo, 28mi (45km) from Siena, 43mi (70km) from Perugia, and 50mi (80km) from Florence.
Lucignano and nearby cities to visit.
Florence is surely the most renowned city in Tuscany, (and similarly well-known around probably in the world too?). Cradle of the Italian Renaissance, it is a city of art that you will fall in love with the moment you set foot inside. A lot of information about Florence can be found online basically everywhere on the Internet, but you might not read this pro tip what I’m about to tell you is a tidbit few people know: you don’t want to miss the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo.
View of Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo.
If you are looking for some relaxation after days of sightseeing instead, you will love the Rapolano Terme (“terme” is the Italian for thermal baths) is what suits you. A 15-minute drive is all that is preventing you from diving into one of the most famous thermal baths in Italy.
San Giovanni Rapolano Terme (thermal baths) in the town of Rapolano Terme. Source: Visit Tuscany.
And lastly, for all of you nature lovers, Tuscany is the Italian region with the most picturesque countryside. Three must-see valleys:
Val d’Orcia is the embodiment of the beautiful Tuscan hills.
P.S.: If you intend to drive from Lucignano to Rome, DO NOT miss the most spectacular Italian ghost town on your way: Civita di Bagnoregio!
The allure of Lucignano doesn’t only lie in its churchers or ancient ruins, but, above all, in its inhabitants and the traditions they have been carrying on unchanged for centuries.
"The idea is that if locals lead a pleasant lifestyle, then also visitors will have a good time and feel at home"
By visiting Lucignano, you’re on your way to a taste of rural Italy. Mark on your calendar for these dates if you’re interested in visiting this Tuscan small village during the following events.
The Maggiolata. For two full weeks at the end of May, the city of Lucignano is animated with flower-themed events to celebrate the arrival of spring. The highlight of the celebrations is the parade of floats where the four districts of the village face each other to win the final prize, the Grifo d’Oro.
A moment during Lucignano’s “Maggiolata” in 2017. Source: Arezzo Notizie.
Another traditional event is what the locals call Memorie dal Passato (Italian for “Memories of the Past”). For an entire day, usually around the end of September, the citizens of Lucignano put on a performance of how daily life looked in the 9th century.
A moment of Memorie del Passato, an annual representation of a typical day in the past. Source: Alexicon.
Those of you lucky enough to visit Lucignano during the Christmas season will have the possibility to attend the famous Christmas market hosted during the Fiera del Ceppo. Traditional food and handcrafted products are sold in the various stands.
Right outside Lucignano, a majestic medieval fortress overlooks the town from the top of a hill. It was originally built in addition to the defensive walls of the city, overlooks the town from the top of a hill.
Lucignano’s medieval fortress (in the bottom left corner) overlooking the town. Source: e-Borghi
“[The fortress of Lucignano] is one of the most beautiful we have, a symbol of the Renaissance age in Tuscany”
Eugenio Giani, President of Regional Council
The fortress is not simply an ancient ruin - it is an actual proof of the historical evolution of the city. Built by the House of Medici (monarchs of Florence) in 1533, it marks the passage of the village from the Sienese control to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
Temporarily, the stronghold is not open to the public for safety reasons as the city works on restoration. But you can still admire it by driving (or walking) through Via Giuseppe Mazzini; The castle is only ¼ mile (500m) away from the walls of the village!
Since the construction started in early 2019, tourists might be able to revisit one of Lucignano’s most important remains soon!
Plus, restoration works started in early 2019 and you might soon be able to revisit one of Lucignano's most important remains!
While the pandemic created a lot of misfortune in Italy and in the world, it also brought some beauty to light This unfortunate pandemic unearthed — especially unveiling many a plethora of Italian small Italian villages. that are worth a visit in 2021. As you plan your travel adventures for 2021 (hopefully!), we hope you’ll consider Lucignano., a small medieval village well positioned in central Tuscany, is one of them. In this article, I highlighted 7 reasons why I would personally visit this borgo.
The Amazing food, century-old churches and art, and the wide variety of nearby activities are just the start of what actually represents a different style of travel. I am sure you’ll be impressed by experiencing first-hand the warmth of its inhabitants and the feeling of being part of something that has been carried unchanged for a long, long time.
Want to read more about Italian places? Head to my post about Naples!