La Verna Sanctuary is perched in an amazing setting in the forest on a high rocky promontory, visible from a distance. The sanctuary sits on the site where it's believed that Saint Francis received the stigmata. It's now a monastic complex that includes the monastery, church, museum, chapels, and the cave that was his cell as well as tourist facilities including a souvenir shop and refreshment bar. From the sanctuary, there are fantastic views of the valleys below.
La Verna Location
The sanctuary is located in the mountains 3 kilometers above the small town of Chiusi Della Verna, 43 kilometers northeast of Arezzo, in eastern Tuscany. It's about 75 kilometers east of Florence and 120 kilometers northwest of Assisi, another famous site linked to Saint Francis.
The closest train station is in Bibbiena served by the private Arezzo to Pratovecchio rail line. Bus service connects to Chiusi Della Verna from Bibbiena but it's still a long way up the hill to the sanctuary. The best way to get there is really by car. There's a large parking lot with parking meters outside the sanctuary.
History and What to See
Santa Maria Degli Angeli, a small church founded by Saint Francis, was built on this spot in 1216. In 1224, Saint Francis came to the mountain and little church for one of his retreats and it was then that he received the stigmata. La Verna became an important pilgrimage site for Franciscans and followers of Saint Francis and a large monastery developed.
The larger Church of Saint Mary was consecrated in 1568 and holds a number of important Della Robbia art works. Masses are held in the church several times a day starting at 8 am. The sanctuary itself is open from 6:30 AM until sunset although the museum has shorter hours.
In 1263, a small chapel was built over the spot where Saint Francis received the stigmata. It's reached by a long corridor with frescoes depicting the life of Saint Francis and bas-reliefs of the Via Crucis. The friars walk along this route to the chapel daily as they have since 1341.
Feast of the Stigmata
Each year the feast of the Stigmata is celebrated on September 17. Hundreds of pilgrims visit the sanctuary to celebrate the special masses held on this day.
Above the Sanctuary - La Penna
From the convent, you can walk up to La Penna, the highest point on the mountain, where there's a chapel built on a precipice. From La Penna, the countryside is visible for miles around and the views take in valleys in three regions - Tuscany, Umbria, and the Marche. On the way to La Penna, you'll pass Sasso di Lupo, the rock of the wolf, a large rock split away from the rocky mass and the cell of the Blessed Giovanni Della Verna, who died in 1322.