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Saint Verdiana

Santa Verdiana is a medieval hermit closely linked to Castelfiorentino (where her sanctuary stands) and which was highly venerated in the past not only in Valdelsa , but also in Florence . It is mentioned, as well as the sanctuary in the thriller Il Monastero dei delitti by Claudio Aita (Newton Compton).

Almost contemporary with Francesco d'Assisi (whom, according to tradition, he would have known personally), Verdiana was born in Castelfiorentino probably in 1178 from a family of fallen nobles, that of the Attavanti . Hers was a childhood dominated by economic problems, first as a shepherdess, then as a maid with a wealthy relative. The decision to go on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela represented a turning point in his life. Still today, next to his body, is preserved the ex voto depicting Saint James that the young Verdiana had brought from Compostela. After visiting the Spanish sanctuary, the future saint walked the Via Francigenaon the contrary until reaching Rome where the tombs of the martyrs were. Here it was welcomed, according to legend, by Pope Innocent III. Returning to Castelfiorentino, she had already decided to retire from the world. In 1208 he had himself walled up in a cell on the banks of the Elsa river, near an oratory in the name of Sant'Antonio Abate, a structure used as a hospital for the plague victims. Here she lived for 34 years, completely recluse and, in recent years, with the company of two snakes. A single opening allowed her to attend mass and receive food. His death, which occurred on February 1, 1242, was announced by the killing of a snake and the flight of the other, as well as by the miraculous sound of the bells. In the sanctuary, among other objects and reliquaries, are preserved the remains of the animal and the wool and irons that were the working tools of the nun.

The following of Santa Verdiana spread immediately, also taking on a political connotation with the Municipality of Castelfiorentino in search of its own identity to contrast with its more powerful neighbors. According to the hagiographic tradition, the saint met Francis (let's not forget that her cell was located along the Via Francigena) which would have admitted her to the third Franciscan Order. Curiously, and without any justification, the following iconography will represent Santa Verdiana dressed in the Vallombrosan habit. His following was immediately exported also to Florence where some of his relics were brought to the monastery which was dedicated to his name. Even if the following of the saint will be made official only in 1533 by Pope Clement VII, already in the decades following his death the foundations of the future sanctuary were laid which, in its current grandiose Baroque aspect, will be built in the century. XVIII.


February 1 

Saint of the day:

Saint Verdiana

Patron Saint of Castelfiorentino, Italy





Sanctuary of Santa Verdiana

Museo di Arte Sacra Santa Verdiana

Castelfiorentino, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy





Crespelle alla Fiorentina

These Italian spinach and cheese stuffed pancakes make an excellent light lunch or supper dish and would work just as well as the first course of a more extensive menu (serving four). The pancakes are baked in the oven with a generous covering of béchamel (white sauce).

Ingredients (Serves 2-4)

  • For the pancake batter:

    • 85 g plain flour

    • 150 ml milk

    • 1 large egg

    • A pinch of salt

  • For the stuffing

    • 450 g fresh spinach
      (yielding 275 g cooked & squeezed of excess moisture)

    • 100 g Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese, finely grated

    • ½ medium onion, finely chopped and softened in a little butter.

    • Salt, pepper and nutmeg, to taste.

  • For the béchamel

    • 350 ml of milk

    • 25 g plain flour

    • 30 g butter

    • Salt, to taste

    • Just a little more grated cheese,
      if liked, to sprinkle over before baking



  1. Whisk together the batter ingredients until smooth. Add a little water to make up the volume to 285 ml (½ pint). Using a medium-sized frying pan over moderate heat, make four pancakes and set them aside. I lubricate a non-stick pan with a tiny bit of butter for each pancake. If you have a treasured carbon steel crêpe or omelette pan, use it.

  2. Wash the spinach if it is at all gritty, but shake off as much water as possible – a salad spinner is perfect for the job. Steam the spinach until it has just wilted (I usually do mine in a covered bowl in the microwave). Leave it to cool a little and then press as much liquid out of it as you can in a colander or sieve with the back of a spoon (or using your bare hands). Roughly chop the cooked spinach and put it into a mixing bowl.

  3. While the spinach is steaming, finely chop the onion and gently fry it in a little butter until it is softening but not brown. Add the cooked onion to the spinach.

  4. Grate the cheese and add that to the spinach too, along with some salt pepper and fresh nutmeg. Stir everything together and set aside.

  5. Make a fairly thin white sauce by combining the flour, butter and milk in a saucepan over moderate heat, using whatever technique you are comfortable with. I rarely bother making a roux, but just warm the milk until the butter has melted and then whisk in the flour before bringing everything to a simmer, stirring as I go. Add salt, to taste, and then cook the sauce for a few minutes at a bare simmer to slightly thicken the sauce and cook the flour.

  6. Use a little butter to generously grease a suitable ovenproof dish that will just hold the pancakes and sauce once they are assembled. Preheat the oven to 180-190°C.

  7. Divide the stuffing mixture between the pancakes and roll them up like cigars. Put about ¼ of the sauce in the bottom of the dish and then lay the rolled-up pancakes side by side. Add the rest of the sauce, making sure that the ends are covered, or they will dry out. You can prepare the pancakes to this point in advance if you want to, but cover them so the sauce doesn’t form a skin.

  8. Bake the pancakes until the sauce is beginning to bubble and brown (about 25-30 minutes). Take the dish out of the oven and let it stand for five minutes before serving.

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