The first time I heard of the Sanctuary on Montenero  was from Signor Solari, my then piano teacher, who took mum and me on an afternoon trip there many years ago. He was so proud to show off his little secret, a small jewel overlooking the port of Livorno  that houses a literal treasure trove of documented ‘Miracles’ that people have received after praying to a Saint or Divinity in a time of need.

While we were in Tuscany this summer I revisited Livorno and my good friends who took us to dinner in a special place located in Montenero. During dinner I remembered what an impression the Sanctuary a little further up the mountain made on me many years before.


The Funiculare to the Sanctuary begins & ends.

The next day Ani and I went to the beach in Castiglioncello and on the way back to the city we turned off the Aurelia and headed up towards Montenero so I could in my turn share this unusual and special place with my daughter. It is dedicated to the Patron Saint of Tuscany, the Divine Mary and remains one of my favorite spots on earth.

Our drive up was not nearly as harrowing as when Solari was manning the curves at 60 mph  – smoking his Gauloise, gesticulating the way Italians do when they are reminiscing or talking about beautiful women (which often happens at the same time).  We stopped to take in the view of the bay…

The View from Montenero

As noted in tour guides, Montenero was also a big holiday destination for artistic types like Byron and Shelley and even Longfellow in the 19th century and it is no surprise when you look out from the promenade to the bay, what attracted them to this place.

As we arrived in the main piazza at the top of the mountain we parked and then walked along the edge of the decaying promenade to the Church. Ani was ogling the trinkets at the kiosks with euros burning in her pocket.

We treated ourselves to a bite to eat and a juice at one of the bar/restaurants in the grand piazza, watched over by an unusual painting before we headed into the Sanctuary.

Grazie Ricevuta or an ex-voto is a votive offering (a painting or a plaque) to a saint or a divine being as showing thanks for a prayer asking for an intervention or help in time of need. Many churches in Italy have special rooms where they are displayed on the wall like this…

“The first chapel was built to commemorate a miraculous event that happened in 1345. A shepherd found an image of Our Lady at the foot of a hill. He had a vision in which he was told to carry the image on top of the hill. When he arrived to his destination, the man was cured of a grave infirmity“.


One of the many scenes on the walls..

The sanctuary collection is truly fascinating on many levels! Historically, decoratively and culturally the thousands of items are not just interesting but charming as well, showing the frailty and strength of believers in an often simple and naif way that speaks volumes about the devotees.  The common man describing the miraculous is a stark reality that is often missing in the highly stimulated American life of 2018.

More paintings, drawings of daily life and tragedies overcome – very touching …

Saved from disaster


Saved from Drowning


Runaway Horse accident


Praying to the Mother


Prayer for a sick daughter


The Grazie Ricevute with Names & Messages

Where is a place or Sanctuary that you have been to that moved you in some way?