10 Gorgeous Churches in Tuscany

Churches are even more prolific in Tuscany's rolling hills than wineries, and that's saying something. Here are a few with serious history that you should check out on your next trip.

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Photo By: Toscana Promozione Turistica

Photo By: Toscana Promozione Turistica

Photo By: Toscana Promozione Turistica

Photo By: Toscana Promozione Turistica

Photo By: Toscana Promozione Turistica

Photo By: Toscana Promozione Turistica

Photo By: Toscana Promozione Turistica

Photo By: Kassondra Cloos

Photo By: Kassondra Cloos

Photo By: Kassondra Cloos

Piazza dei Miracoli (Pisa)

You already know about the Leaning Tower of Pisa, but that's not the only architectural wonder in the Piazza dei Miracoli (or Square of Miracles). The Cathedral of Pisa (right) was founded in 1064, and mass is still held regularly throughout the week. The Baptistery of San Giovanni (left) founded in 1152 has remarkable acoustics in addition to its stunning design.

Abbey of Sant'Antimo (Siena)

The Abbey of Sant'Antimo was founded around the year 814, possibly by the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne himself. Benedictine monks have lived there for centuries ever since the existing abbey was built on the site around the beginning of the 12th century. Mass is held there on Sundays to this day, and you can also organize a spiritual retreat to stay at the abbey's guesthouse.

Chiesa di San Michele (Lucca)

No corners were cut while building the elaborate facade of Chiesa di San Michele—it took 300 years to build this basilica in Lucca over the ruins of the ancient Roman forum. The church standing today dates back to about 1000, but there's historical evidence to suggest there was a church on this site as early as the 700s. Its bell tower was built between the 12th and 14th centuries.

Abbey of San Galgano (Siena)

It may no longer have its roof, but the Abbey of San Galgano is still grand more than 700 years after its completion. Legend has it that Saint Galgano thrust his sword into the ground to make a crucifix here and it immediately fused with the rock. You can still see the ancient sword today at Montesiepi Chapel nearby.

Cattedrale di San Zeno (Pistoia)

San Zeno Cathedral has survived damage from several fires and at least one earthquake since the early 900s. The main attraction is the altar of Saint James in the Crucifix Chapel. The elaborate silver altar—and its more than 600 individual figures and reliefs—took decades to finish, starting around the turn of the 14th century.

Pieve di Santo Stefano (Filattiera)

You can find Pieve di Santo Stefano in Sorano along the Via Francigena, an ancient trade route that runs from Canterbury, England to Rome. The church here has proved to be an important archaeological site, turning up prehistoric artifacts and a necropolis. Inside, you'll find stele statues—stone figures with semicircular heads—carved thousands of years ago.

Santa Maria Assunta (Pienza)

Also known as the Pienza Cathedral, the Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary is a Gothic-style cathedral clad in travertine. The town of Pienza, where it's located, is part of the Val d'Orcia UNESCO cultural landscape site and offers a rare look at early urban planning. The town was built around the cathedral and other sites in the main square around the 15th century.

Chiesa di Santa Maria (Sovana)

In the town of Sovana, the Chiesa di Santa Maria—Church of Saint Mary—is home to the only stone ciborium in Italy. The ciborium, or the stone canopy over the altar, is meant to showcase how important the altar is.

Abbadia San Salvatore (Siena)

Abbadia San Salvatore, an abbey in the town of the same name, was founded nearly 1,300 years ago. The church you can visit today was rebuilt at the turn of the 11th century, and you'll still find many ancient relics inside, like the 12th-century wooden crucifix that hangs over the altar and 16th-century fountains for holy water. Take a close look at the carved stone columns in the crypt, most of which are still original.

Cattedrale dei Santi Pietro e Paolo (Grosseto)

Pitigliano is known as "Little Jerusalem" for its historically large Jewish population, but like everywhere else in Tuscany you'll find Catholic churches here, too. The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, dating back at least 500 years, is in the heart of the town. Just a short walk from the cathedral, you'll find a network of ancient Etruscan roads that are hand-carved in stone. Take some time to walk through here for quiet reflection.

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