Promontory and Sanctuary of Pietrina
The sheer beauty of this place will help you make peace with yourself. This is what happens to visitors when they leave the hectic pace of everyday life behind and follow the road that leads from Iano to Palagio, to then continue up the steep lane that leads to the Sanctuary of Pietrina. Pietrina hill is one of the most enchanting places in Montaione, containing a unique blend of historical interest and spiritual devotion, not to mention stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
It is possible to reach the Pietrina by car, but walking is an entirely different experience. Taking a leisurely stroll up the road, which changes from gently to steeply sloping, through the holm oaks and pines of the Camporena forest, stopping from time to time to listen to the silence and then setting off again towards the summit, is like entering another world, which is still and timeless, and you will feel like you are completely surrounded by beauty. But the biggest thrill awaits once you reach the top of the hill – a seemingly infinite panorama opens up to the south, offering a view as far as the eye can see, overlooking the Valdera region and its gentle hills, with the majestic town of Volterra straight ahead, the tower of Montecatini Val di Cecina further away to the west, and perhaps, by pushing your gaze and desire even further, you’ll even catch a glimpse of the glittering sea far beyond.
The hill still contains the remains of the ancient castle of the “Pietra” (lit. rock, the original name of this hill, from which the current name of the sanctuary, “Pietrina”, derives its name), whose existence has been documented since AD 1118. The building changed ownership a number of times from the Middle Ages to the Modern Age. The castle along with the adjoining church of St Andrew actually became a minor municipality whose domain extended to nearby hamlets, such as Palagio, Casicello and S. Leonardo, which was governed, over the centuries, first by Volterra, then San Gimignano and Florence, and lastly, Montaione. Today only two crumbling towers remain of the castle, while the church has been more fortunate. The history of the small sanctuary church is linked to a painting, a polyptych from the second half of the fourteenth century, attributed to the Sienese artists, Bartolo di Fredi, a pupil of Simone Martini, created when the painter was active in nearby Volterra. Only the central panel has survived, depicting the Madonna and Child, with the infant Jesus holding an apple in his hand. A copy of the painting can be seen in the church, while the original is kept in the Curia of Volterra for security reasons. The Madonna of the Pietrina has been the focus of a widespread devotional tradition throughout the centuries, unceasingly nurtured by the local people, which is a testament to the extent that such religious practices helped shape the life, culture and identity of these places. Today this devotion is expressed above all during the feast day, with a solemn procession that takes place here on the last Sunday of September.
However, the surprises offered by Pietrina hill do not end here, because a well-marked path invites you to go below the level of the sanctuary. As you follow this path, you’ll find yourself walking through a tunnel of vegetation that almost completely obscures the view of the sky. As you continue to explore, you’ll suddenly find yourself at the foot of one of the area’s impressive rock faces, the Falesia Masso del Becco. A bare vertical surface of rock, a few dozen metres high, made up of quartzite outcrops and conglomerates of Verruncano, formed almost 250 million years ago. A true wonder of nature, completely surrounded by nature.
Promontory and Sanctuary of Pietrina- Via Palagio, Montaione