The octagonal church of S. Giovanni in Val di Lago was built in 1587, in the place of the previous church. The original inhabited area of S. Lorenzo underwent depopulation during the eighteenth century, due to multiple causes. At the end of the eighteenth century, the population settled in the new town of San Lorenzo Nuovo, a few kilometers north. As a result, around 1800 all the liturgical celebrations were transferred from San Giovanni in Val di Lago to the church of the new town, causing the abandonment and devastation of the small octagonal church. The church is on the pilgrimage route Via Francigena, near Lago di Bolsena.
The existing ambiance in which the church is the main actor in the space is retained, and all additional programs are located underground. The pilgrim center thus becomes part of the landscape, and its presence is visible only from the walls that rise slightly above the ground. The chapel gets a translucent sculptural roof to further emphasize its importance as a monument in space and a new program point on the pilgrimage route. This creates a constant play of contrast between above ground and underground, the sacred and the profane, the light and the shadow.
The restoration of the church is carried out with respect for each layer of time, as well as the natural one that brought it to its current state. The exterior of the church is left as it is. A sculptural translucent roof rises above the massive stone octagon of the church. The shape of the roof was obtained by multiplying the arched rib as an traditional element of church history. Each rib is cut at a different angle so they can form a sculpture on the outside, while on the inside it creates a continuous play of light and shadow. The interior of the church thus becomes a dreamy place where light culminates, but always in a pleasant, subtle and soft way. The roof is at the same time sculptural, ethereal, new but timeless, subtle and accentuated, traditional and modern. The rest of the church is restored in neutral materials so that light remains the only sensation.
Accommodation for pilgrims and accompanying facilities are located underground and can be accessed from several directions. All entrances descend into a continuous corridor that connects all the facilities. The corridor is not visible from the ground surface and its lighting is always accidental and occasional, which arouses a feeling of curiosity. In addition to dormitories, toilets, kitchen, dining room, and social space, the center also contains a water chapel and a fireplace. It is connected to the amphitheater, which is one of the entrances. The dormitories are designed for one person and contain only the basic dimensions and content needed for one or a few nights. The area with dormitories and toilets is situated in a more quiet part, away from the social facilities of the center.