Excalibur and the Abbey of San Galgano
A discovery from legend to reality in the heart of Tuscany
Who does not know the legendary story of King Arthur and how he proved to be the regent chosen pulling Excalibur out of a rock-mass? Well, without fussing legends, movies and stories, in San Galgano about 30 miles west of Siena, on the border with the province of Grosseto (between Monticiano and Chiusdino), stands the monumental complex of San Galgano.
From this place which looks out of time, pass two roads of great historical importance: "La Massetana" that connects Siena with the Sea, crossing Massa Marittima, the "Colline Metallifere", and the ancient "Strada Maremmana" which merges the heart of Tuscany with Grosseto.
The main attraction is the sword in the stone that lies at the center of "Rotonda Montesiepi" stuck in a rock mass emerging by the main floor (see photos).
The sword judging from the visible portion protruding from the rock, seems to be exactly the same, with regard to the style of a real sword of the twelfth century.
The other attraction is the Abbey discovery, the construction of which was begun in 1218. The Abbey owes much of its charm (as you can see from the photo tour below) to it's missing roof and the isolated position in the middle of a flat.
Very impressive is also the night scene where the lighting from the bottom to the top accentuates the layout and inlines of the Abbey walls that fade into darkness of the surrounding countryside.
How to get:
The Abbey is easily accessible from Florence following the freeway Firenze-Siena and then the SS 223 Siena-Grosseto and exit at San Lorenzo a Merse, and then on to Monticiano. Along the route there are tourist signs all the way till you reach the Abbey.
Or, if you lean towards a slower route full of gorgeous sceneries, we take the Firenze-Siena freeway and exit at Colle Val D'Elsa south, keep on going bearing to Grosseto, on the SP 541 Traversa Maremma, about 10 miles. Once you reach Colonna Montarrenti turn right onto the SS 73 towards Monticiano/Massa Marittima, then turn right onto the SS441 towards San Galgano (there is a sign). After 1,7 miles turn left and enter the beautiful cypress-lined avenue that leads to San Galgano. On the left is a parking lot, even for RVs.
A walkway connects the abbey with the hermitage of Montesiepi (see photo below).
A tip: the Maremma Cross (SP 541) in the village of 'Speranza' (about 6 miles from Colle Val d'Elsa), there is a restaurant of the same name, not to be missed. Click here for the review.
Hours and tickets:
The Abbey of San Galgano is open from April to October daily from 9 am to 7 pm (until 8 pm on Sundays and holidays), and from November to March from 9:30 to 5:30 pm (until 6:30 pm on Sundays and holidays)
Ticket price: € 2.00 full price; € 1.50 reduced
The Sword in the Stone is at Montesiepi and free of charge