Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore

Central Tuscany

Concealed amid dense forest on the edge of the Castelnuovo Berardenga region, this 14th-century abbey was founded by Giovanni (John) Tolomei – later Saint Bernardo Tolomei – and is still a retreat for Benedictine monks. The cloister features a fresco series by Luca Signorelli and Giovanni Antonio Bazzi (aka Il Sodoma) illustrating events in the life of St Benedict, founder of the order. There is also a church with magnificent choir stalls of inlaid wood and a refectory frescoed by Fra' Paolo Novelli.

Mass on Sundays (11am) features Gregorian chanting. A donation is requested to visit the abbey's library, museum and pharmacy; visits to the historic cantina (wine cellar), where you can enjoy a wine tasting, are free. Parking costs €1.