To Hear: San Miniato al Monte

by The Curious Pear

The olive tree-studded peaks of Florence’s surrounding hills provide the perfect platform for studying the city’s ethereal light. Tracing a steep pathway, passing by handsome country houses hidden amongst the hazy greenery, you will find The Abbey of San Miniato al Monte. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the outside of this church is adorned in the same green and white geometric marble patters as Santa Croce and Santa Maria Novella. The walk is a challenge in the afternoon heat. But up there, you will find serenity in its purest form. Florence’s winding streets often cough you out into bustling piazzas or romantically disheveled gardens. So part of the joy of looking down at the city from above is suddenly understanding its layout. The glassy River Arno laces through the centre of the city, and the citrus-coloured buildings spread out across the city, peppered with impossibly grand structures; the Duomo, Campanario de Giotto, Basilica de Santa Cruz. From high up among the endless, hazy Tuscan hills, Florence seems at once sprawling and tiny.

At 5.30pm each evening, as the sun throws a creamy shade of gold across the whole of Florence, the monks of San Miniato al Monte begin to chant. Their Gregorian song floats gently into the air, before filling it completely. It is an elegant, haunting kind of music. It speaks of centuries of worship. Roped off from the public, the monks are not to be seen, but their voices spill like liquid across the basilica, down the steps and across the cityscape below.