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Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore


The monastery (tel. 0577 70 76 11), whose construction began at the end of the 14th century, is home and refuge to 40 monks. What most attracts visitors to this particular monastery are the frescoes in the Green Cloisters based on Saint Benedict’s life and painted by Luca Signorelli and Il Sodoma.
These two characters are complete opposites. Signorelli was said to be a very polite person. Before the nine frescoes he worked on for the monastery at the end of the 15th century he had worked on the Sistine Chapel and on his "Resurrection of the Flesh" in the Cathedral of Orvieto. Il Sodoma, by contrast, whose nickname came from his love for being accompanied by youngsters “he loved beyond measure” according to Giorgio Vasari, was known for his extravagance. Il Sodoma had done 17 frescoes in the monastery by 1505.
The interiors of the church next-door to the monastery are in the baroque style. It was also decorated by Il Sodoma and its highlight is its elaborate marquetry choir stalls.
Once you have finished looking around the monastery there are still plenty of other sites to visit. In San Giovanni d’Asso the 11th century church whose façade has kept the Lombardic-Tuscan style deserves and the vestiges of a castle.
Then you can head for Montisi and Castelmuzio where there is the Chiesa di Santa Maria. Admire its Romanesque Gothic façade and on leaving Castelmuzio be sure to see the 13th century Pieve di Santa Stefano in Cennano.
For a pampering experience Castelmuzio’s La Locanda della Moscadella is a heavenly retreat with a wellness centre including a sauna, Turkish bath, massage sessions and sea salt treatments. (tel. 0577 66 53 10; www.lamoscadella.it)
The road connecting Castelmuzio–Pienza goes past Sant’Anna in Camprena where there are more of Il Sodoma’s frescoes (tel. 0578 74 80 37). It is located a short drive from Castelmuzio. Scenes for the English Patient were shot here. 

Taking either a bike-ride or drive along the roads linking Monte Oliveto Maggiore and Pienza where the views of the clay hills (from which the name Le Crete originated) are captivating.