I remember the first time I saw the chapel, from a distance in the middle of no where, on a road trip through Tuscany on my way to Pienza. I thought I had seen a mirage. I had to blink twice and rub my eyes. The view I saw had been photographed thousands of times yet it seemed like it could not possibly exist. An iconic picture found in almost every calendar or note card set about Italy that leaves you thinking there can be no place on earth that beautiful and yet here I was looking at it in real-time, in the flesh.
The Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta in Italy’s stunning Val d’ Orcia is one of the most photographed views in Tuscany. Built on a solitary hill against a sweeping panorama of agrarian fields and stands of cypress, the chapel once held a Renaissance statue of the Madonna sculpted by Andrea della Robbia in 1590. Recently classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Cappella della Madonna di Vitaleta is an indelible memory of my travels in Italy and a sight that will forever define the landscape of Tuscany.
Click here to see some amazing pictures of the Chapel of the Madonna di Vitaleta in San Quirico d’Orcia and Tuscany.
According to National Geographic writer and Emmy award-winning documentarian Dan Buettner the secrets of longevity are encoded in an . . . Italian Cheese!
Buettner who travels the globe to examine and unlock the secrets of long life has written a book called The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From the People Who’ve Lived the Longest. For the Sardinian people, this could be a diet of bread, wine and cheese. The cheese, known as pecorino sardo, is made from grass-fed sheep’s’ milk that results in a product which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It was being made in Sardegna centuries before the Romans captured the island.
Sardinians also eat a diet of fiber rich fava beans (high in folate), a type of nutritive wafer thin bread known as Carta da musica and a leavened bread made with a bacteria used to rise the bread that creates a mixture of substances with positive effects (vitamins and lactic acid that may counter attack probable harmful bacteria found in the digestive tract). They wash this all down with divided amounts of Cannonau, a dark red wine said to contain the world’s highest levels of antioxidants.
Buettner is quick to acknowledge that nothing can be said for sure but his findings are based on the way the longest-lived people in the world eat and some of them happen to live in Italy.
*Pecorino Sardo’s Roman cousin was also found to be beneficial