High in the Appenine mountains of Tuscany, in the middle of a dense forest of fir and beech trees, rests the majestic Benedictine Monastery of Vallombrosa, founded in 1038. It is a magical tribute to the power of spirit to move mankind. After many changes over the centuries, it remains to this day as a model of fifteenth century grandeur—for all to enjoy. The peaceful setting has been an inspiration to countless visitors over the years.
Our friend Sabrina told us of a fantastic forno (bakery), near the monastery, and of the crystal clear water that flows from the mountain springs. Committed to follow every lead that comes our way, we set out on a Sunday morning to see what we could find. The mouth-watering bread eluded our best investigatory efforts, but we did taste the cool water straight from nature herself, and enjoyed a springtime tromp around the enchanting forest. The beautiful bells rang from the tower as the Sunday service ended, signaling permission to enter and wander through the inspiring basilica with its rich history.
Because of the altitude, Vallombrosa stays cool throughout spring, and as a result, doesn’t officially open until the middle of June. That inspires us to return for a detailed tour of all it has to offer. However, the pharmacy is open, and well stocked with secret remedies from centuries past—many of them made on site by the monks. So, of course, we had to grab a few elixirs of our own, to cure what ails us, and to honor the wisdom of the ages.
From there, we took the enthusiastic advice from the pharmacy monk to stop at Ristorante Santa Caterina, only a couple of kilometers away for a deliciously hearty meal—guaranteed (Always remember that a monk would never steer you wrong). The meal was incredible just as he promised, and the people were a delight. We were lucky enough to get “l’ultimo tavolo” (the last table), since everything else was reserved well in advance. It was our lucky day, as the jovial hostess declared.
When we return for the grand tour in June, we will definitely arrive hungry!
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