The Chapel of Madonna di Vitaleta in Val d'Orcia
After the winter closure reopens the most photographed symbol of the Val d'Orcia
The Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta is a small jewel set among six iconic cypress trees, near San Quirico d'Orcia, a town in the center of the valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A church rich in history, that the restoration of 2021 has returned to the community of San Quirico and beyond, and that now rediscovers its sacredness, intimate and timeless.
Legend has it that during the 16th century, on the exact spot where the church stands, Mary appeared to a shepherdess and suggested that she invite the people of San Quirico to go to a Florentine workshop, where they would find the statue to be placed in the church of Vitaleta.
So, thanks to the offerings of the people, the devout people of San Quirico bought a beautiful glazed ceramic Madonna by Andrea della Robbia from the workshop of the family of the famous Florentine artists della Robbia. And, between the end of the 16th century and the first decades of the 17th century, a church was built in Vitaleta, on the border between San Quirico and Pienza, to dignify the white sculpture. Over time, numerous miracles were attributed to the sacred image, as local historians recount.
The Madonna was invoked every time there was a famine, a pestilence or an earthquake and, in 1822, she was even taken in procession to Siena where she was displayed in the city's cathedral. From then on, the statue was moved to San Quirico more and more frequently, until, in 1861, when it was found that the old chapel was unfit for use, it was decided to move it permanently to the Collegiate Church of San Quirico.
From 1870 onwards, the Della Robbia statue found its definitive home in the former convent, which changed its name to the Church of Maria SS. di Vitaleta in her honour.
In the 1880s, the original church, by then abandoned, was demolished. In its place, the owner, a private citizen of San Quirico, commissioned the famous Sienese architect Giuseppe Partini to build a new church, which was inaugurated in 1885. Since then, the cult of the Madonna developed so much that, around the 10 th century, the Pope granted her the golden crown, which is awarded when important miracles are performed. Since then, every first Sunday in September, a festival is celebrated in her honour.
THE CHAPEL OF VITALETA TODAY
The chapel is now the property of Pasquale Forte, a visionary entrepreneur who, intimately linked to these places and to the Madonna of Vitaleta, strongly wanted to revive the chapel, giving it back its original meaning of religiousness and devotion and its beauty, through a restoration that has given back soul to this place, making it accessible again, in conditions of maximum safety. A project of intervention both outside and inside, respecting the simplicity that distinguishes it. A photograph of the Madonna of Vitaleta has now been placed on the altar, waiting to host the work of a contemporary artist.
THE RESTAURANT OF VITALETA
Adjacent to the Chapel is Ristoro, led by chef Samuele Nocciolini. A chef who grew up between the house and the farm in the Arezzo countryside of his maternal grandmother, who made his bones abroad in starred and luxury restaurants and who has learned the value of raw materials linked to the territory thanks to experiences in Sicily and Tuscany. He arrives at the Ristoro with a very specific goal: to bring to the table local products of excellence, flavors and recipes of the past, keeping alive the rich Tuscan culinary tradition.
The dishes will vary according to seasonality and period. Stand out the platters of cold cuts and cheeses, the classic panzanella, the first courses with Cinta Senese sauce, all'aglione, wild boar stew, just to name a few. The products come from the Podere such as Cinta Senese salami from certified organic breeding, organic honeys, organic and biodynamic extra virgin olive oil Terre di Siena D.O.P, fresh bread made with Senatore Cappelli durum wheat semolina from organic and biodynamic agriculture and "Pasta Vitaleta", the first line of pasta made with the best Senatore Cappelli durum wheat. Everything is accompanied by the great wines of Podere Forte, red, white, rosé and bubbles.
The restaurant is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10.30 am until sunset.