Travel south east along the narrow and meandering roads leading from Siena and, if you’re extremely lucky, you come to the little borgo of Torri. Torri is not on the tourist map—which is precisely why you must go of course.
The sparsely populated village of Torri lies along the northern edge of Riserva Naturale Alto Merse, where the Merse river and its tributaries snake through deciduous woodlands and of oak and chestnut.
Why make the trip? Torri is famous for the cloister of the Church of the Holy Trinity, the only (I am told) example of a Romanesque cloister still standing in Tuscany. And it is stunning.
The sign outside the cloister announces that the monastery was first mentioned in 1070 and remodeled in the thirteenth century. The Tuscan Romanesque cloister is composed of those slender columns with carved capitals, some trumpeting biblical stories to visitors who were likely to be illiterate, some simply geometric. The two upper orders were added in the 14th and 15th centuries. The upper is supported by wooden beams.
The cloister is the most beautiful I’ve seen. Of course, a disclaimer is in order: I’m absolutely nuts about Romanesque architecture. It’s those carvings. They’re not perfect, as in the baroque renderings of bloated body parts covered with wispy cloth, artists showing off, but are the work of simple craftsmen. Then there’s the delicate, eye pleasing and almost fragile nature of those columns with their geometric patterns and interlocking designs, a characteristic they share with Islamic architecture. It’s a beauty that doesn’t club you over the head with excess. Form aligns with function—perfectly.
The period, of course, was a time of population growth and religious fervor. Folks young and old, rich and poor, took to pilgrimage routes like the Via Francigena, which passes through Siena, and left in their wake churches, hostels, hospitals, and bordellos. You can walk it today and pass through a great many of the best places to visit in Italy. This was where the rich left money because they wanted to get into heaven. Merchants walked with the masses safely. Towns grew like wildfire.
And then, of course, came the black death.
Travel Essentials for the Cloister in Torri
The cloister of Monastero della Santissima Trinita e Santa Mustiola a Torri has very limited hours. A ceramic plaque outside the cloister announces the Orario visite: Monday 9-12 and Friday 9-12. That’s it.
You can stay inside the borgo of Torri at Antico Borgo di Torri