Abbey of San Galgano
We decided to go a little bit out of the way on our journey from the castle back to Florence, and make a stop at the Abbey of San Galgano - a Cistercian monastic complex built in the 13th century to honor knight-turned-saint Galgano Guidotti. As so often happens with history, there are many different stories surrounding Galgano and his abbey. The most well-known is the story of the sword in the stone (which can be seen in the chapel) - placed there by Galgano himself as legend has it. There are several different versions as to the impetus behind this - from Galgano living a debaucherous life and having visions that urged him to leave it behind, to which he responded, that would be about as easy as sticking this sword into this stone - oh wait, oops! - or the saintlier versions where he plunged his sword into the stone to symbolize his rejection of war or to use it as a cross for prayer.
The abbey was at one time inhabited by monks (as abbeys are wont to be), who were pretty influential during their tenure throughout the Middle Ages (as monks were wont to be), but the church was abandoned in later centuries - a decline probably partially due to the Black Death killing off lots of monks in the the 14th century (as it was wont to do). Now, it is just ruins, but it is hard to imagine that it was more beautiful when it was fully operational.
We came in the early afternoon, and while it wasn't crowded, it wasn't empty either, which made it a little difficult to get the pictures we wanted. Between the architecture, light, and shadows, I'm sure this place could make for incredible photo opps! Definitely worth checking out if you find yourself in Tuscany.