a week in Harry Potter's Italian nunnery

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All sacrilege aside, I truly cannot find a better way to describe the atmosphere of my exceptional residence during this week's Craft the Leather program. Tucked just outside the city walls of San Miniato lies a 14th century monastic nunnery, Monastero di Santa Chiara, which will be our home base for the week while we explore the vegetable-tanned leather region of Tuscany.  

The hosts of the program picked me up from my train and we took the winding trek up to the tippy-top of the hill, to an ancient building with a reddish hue, boasting sweeping vistas in every direction of the Tuscan wine country below. 

alcove of San Miniato nunnery


An ancient fortress with coved ceilings, frescoed walls, and marble floors, the building is laden with history and tradition – and you can still smell the stale air of centuries-old marble and burnt prayer candles.

There was a bit of time to kill before dinner, so my new roommate and I popped out to catch the final hour of the local antiques market and get a lay of the land before dinner. 

brass hardware from San Miniato antique market


I scored some brass keyhole hardware and treated myself to some gelato, natch.


Upon returning in time for orientation, we learned more about this historic space. Santa Chiara Monastery served as a local chapel and home for 'cloistered nuns' (which I actually had to google, and found that it means that these women were literally excluded from interaction with the outside world, and dedicated to a life of solitude and prayer.) 

chapel at san miniato

Over the centuries, San Miniato gained even deeper historical significance through the ages, including a pit stop for Napoleon Bonaparte (who visited his uncle here), a skeleton of Saint which the Gucci family regifted to the church, 

a skeleton in san miniato

and the backdrop of a controversial Taviani brothers movie - evidenced by the most-disturbing photo above the bed in my room. 

Traviani Brothers photo spears

I'm not sure what to expect of the coming week, but if our lodging is any indication - I am in for a significant immersion into this ancient legacy. I've got chills

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About Crystalyn Kae

Crystalyn Kae Brennan Crystalyn is a handbag designer in Seattle, WA. Her sustainable luxury handbags are made in USA with ethically-sourced leather and unique vintage fabrics. Read more »

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