This floating castle appears to be from an enchanted fable, but in actuality it is Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castle.
Within the pastoral views of Tuscany on a hilltop in the rural town of Vitaleta, Italy, is the chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta. Framed by two rows of cypress trees this sacred building is rumored to have been erected on the spot where the Virgin Mary appeared to a shepherdess.
The now privately-owned church is included in the territory of the Archdiocese of Siena-Colle of Val d’Elsa-Montalcino. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has been dubbed the most photographed locations in all of Tuscany.
The church is likely of late Renaissance origin, but the exact date it was constructed is unknown. One of the most notable artifacts from the church is a statue of the Madonna said to be crafted by Andrea della Robbia and placed in the church in 1533. The structure seen today was the result of a restoration by the architect Giuseppe Partini in the late 1800s. His clean lines were inspired by inspired by sixteenth-century models.
The Madonna was removed from the premises of chapel in the late 1800s and is currently housed inside the church of Our Lady of Vitaleta in the historic center of San Quirico d’Orcia. Although the statue has moved, locals have a celebration to commemorate the statue. Melodic music floats from the church during this annual celebration.
Visitors can arrive at the chapel via a hiking trail, biking or by car. Surrounding the chapel are stunning Tuscan countryside views of rolling hills and historic dwellings making it an ideal location for a day trip.
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