Sometimes a holiday in Tuscany just means a visit to the art cities of Siena, Florence, Pisa, Lucca and to other famous and well known places. Some other times changing the way from the traditional itineraries to the hidden tracks brings out nice surprises and hidden wonders of this interesting region.
For instance, starting from the town of Certaldo between Florence and Siena and driving towards San Gimignano, one would go across the river Elsa, just near to an ancient water mill, now a new and elegant four stars Hotel, following the ancient Via Francigena hill road, there’s the small village of Pancole and its Holy Mary Sanctuary. From its portico, the view on the surrounding countryside is spectacular : green hills, woods, olive groves and vineyards of Vernaccia di San Gimignano grapes and Chianti Colli Senesi.
This Church was built right in the place where a small ancient chapel was. The chapel kept a fresco of Virgin Mary with Baby by the painter Pier Francesco Fiorentino, but it was neglected and forgotten after the roof fell down, and it was finally hidden by the thick vegetation grown all around it.
According to the legend, many years later a deaf-mute shepherd girl was crying in that place and a kind woman passing by asked the reason of her sadness. The girl explained the poor conditions she and her family were living in. The woman told her not to be worried, because going back home she would found so many provisions… The girl realized she was speaking and ran immediately home to tell the miracle to her family, where she also found foods and provisions in abundance. So they decided to go back to the place where the girl met the woman, and looking around, they discovered the small chapel and the fresco: the image on it was just the woman she had been talking with!
It was decided to build a church right there, and the fresco is still held inside the building: it also shows a scratch made on it during the research. The church became a known pilgrimage destination, but during the Second World War it was partially destroyed under the bombs. The only wall remained safe, was that one with the fresco on it.
The sanctuary was rebuilt and it is nowadays visited by many pilgrims, looking for indulgence.