The Best Guide to Visiting Abbey of San Galgano, Tuscany’s Oldest Gothic Church

The Best Guide to Visiting Abbey of San Galgano, Tuscany’s Oldest Gothic Church

The Abbey of San Galgano, or Abbazia di San Galgano in Italian, is one of the most majestic monuments in Tuscany. Discover the breathtaking ruins of the region’s oldest Gothic church, dating back to the early 13th century. The abbey is still a hidden gem – so hidden that it is not the easiest destination in Tuscany to reach. But no worries: you will find everything you need to know about visiting the Abbey of San Galgano in this helpful pocket guide.

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About the Abbey of San Galgano

The Abbey of San Galgano, or San Galgano Abbey, is not only one of the most beautiful places in the Tuscan countryside, but also an important historical monument.

The abbey, as well as other nearby structures like the chapel, are dedicated to Saint Galgano. Legend says Galgano was a knight in the late 1100s who renounced the material world and dedicated his life to God.

As a symbol of his renunciation, he thrust his sword into a rock. The rock with the sword in it is visible in the Chapel of San Galgano. Some had tried to pull it out, like the story of King Arthur, but now to protect its integrity, it is covering by a case.

One of the reasons the abbey is so striking is that it is roofless. It has a very haunting look since the space is all hollow, besides the tourists who come to see its amazing architecture.

How to Reach Abbey of San Galgano

The Abbey of San Galgano is almost exclusively reachable by car. It is in the middle of Tuscan countryside (so kind of the middle of nowhere)!

The Abbey of San Galgano can be a great day trip from Florence, as it is only one hour and thirty minutes by car from the city. Other nearby towns include Volterra and Siena, Italy.

There is a large parking lot just at the end of the street leading to the abbey. Parking is free.

If you are only using public transportation to get around Tuscany, you can still reach the abbey, but know that the journey involves multiple transfers and lasts much longer than a direct drive would.

For example, if you are leaving from Florence, you will have to take three buses to reach the abbey, for a total of 3 hours travel time.

First, take the 131R toward Siena and stop in Veneto. From Veneto, take the S33 bus toward Brenna and stop in Rosia. Lastly, hop on the 59F bus toward Prata and get off at San Galgano.

Pro Tip: Google Maps is your friend when it comes to finding public transportation routes and getting real-time updates in Italy.

How to Enter Abbey of San Galgano

Entering the mysterious ruins of the Abbey of San Galgano requires purchasing a ticket.

You can only purchase tickets in person at the abbey, with no reservation required.

The regular ticket price is €5, but there are some exceptions:

  • Under 18, Over 65, Groups of over 20 people & University students with ID: €4
  • Family (2 adults + 2 children): €15
  • Chiusdino residents, kids under 6 years old & caretakers of people with disabilities and tour guides: Free

Good to know: The Abbey of San Galgano is also an event space. It can be rented out for occasions like weddings, so hours and entry opportunities may vary. Your best bet is to reach out to the structure via email of phone to confirm the abbey is open to visitors on the day you are planning to come: or phone 0577049312.

8 Useful Travel Tips for Visiting Abbey of San Galgano

Wear closed-toed shoes

The only way to get around the Abbey is by walking. While the distances are not much, most of the grounds are paved in gravel, so it can be uncomfortable walking in sandals.

The terrain is something to consider also for travelers who have accessibility issues. It may be difficult to autonomously get around on the natural terrain, so you could need extra mobility support.

Spend the night sleeping next to the ruins

One of the most interesting things I noticed while visiting the Abbey of San Galgano is that there is a farm stay, or agriturismo, just in front of the abbey.

This rustic hotel, Agriturismo San Galgano, which almost looks like a farmhouse, is a unique opportunity to stay just steps away from the beautiful gothic cathedral.

Even if you choose not to stay on property, there is a bar and restaurant for visitors who want to make

Good to know: One of the cutest activities you could do around the abbey is have a picnic, but note that it is not allowed on the fields surrounding the abbey. You could use some of the picnic tables around the agriturismo instead.

Visit the Civic Museum of San Galgano

I did not get the chance to go, but included in your entrance ticket to the abbey is a visit to the Museo civico e diocesano di San Galgano in the town center of Chiusdino.

It is a sacred art museum, with works dedicated to the Saint Galgano.

This is a worthy activity if you are in the area for a longer period of time. The ticket is valid for same-day entry.

Know the visiting hours during each season

Did you know you can visit the Abbey of San Galgano 365 days a year?

Just be sure to get informed on the opening times during the period in which you are visiting! Since the abbey is owned by the town government, you can find the latest hours on the official comune website.

Pro Tip: I would personally suggest you plan to take a trip to Tuscany in mid-spring. It is perfect for weather and just early enough before the high season starts to avoid max tourists.

Watch for wind

The abbey is in the countryside, situated between a few hills and surrounded by plains. The environment is the perfect setting for strong winds!

Keep this in mind and avoid bringing loose items with you during the visit (I almost lost my hat several times).

Don’t plan on staying too long

The abbey is stunning, but know that the structure is ruins. There is not much to do other than walk around. You can do your entire visit in as little as half an hour.

This is something to consider when planning your overall Tuscany itinerary. Know that the abbey is a perfect pit stop and less of a main attraction where you will be spending a large part of the day!

Arrive early if you want to take photos

As soon as I arrived at the abbey near sunset on a holiday weekend, I realized I was going to struggle getting some epic photos of this picturesque location.

There were just too many people!

If you are interested in getting some beautiful photos of the structure, or simply in having a peaceful visit, arrive near opening time so that you can have the grounds to yourself (at least for a moment.)

Visit the Chapel of San Galgano

Up a separate road from the abbey is the Chapel of San Galgano, Cappella di San Galgano in Italian, or otherwise known as the Montesiepi chapel.

It is the only Romaneque chapel in Tuscany.

As detailed at the beginning of this article about the story of Saint Galgano, the most important artifact within the chapel is the stone with the sword.

The SGTD Take

The Abbey of San Galgano is a beautiful hidden gem in Tuscany. If you have multiple days to explore the Tuscan countryside, then I would definitely say it is worth a stop on your itinerary.

I would say the same if the Abbey is already on your route from one location to the next.

If you are crunched for time on your Tuscany itinerary, you may not want to go out of your way for the abbey. While it is incredibly beautiful, there is little to see and do and you may prefer to spend your time in places more rich in activities.

Does Abbey of San Galgano makes it onto your Tuscany bucket list itinerary?

Italy Trip Planning Resources

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I hope you save these tips for a perfect visit to the Abbey of San Galgano!




Michela is a travel writer and photographer living in northern Italy. She is passionate about helping people make the most of their travels by sharing advice gained from her personal experiences, off-the-beaten-path destinations and time-saving quick itineraries. Browse her top articles or have her help you plan your itinerary to your dream destination!

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