The Benedictine abbey of Vallombrosa is definitely worth a visit. Not only the abbey is a marvellous piece of architecture but it’s also an oase of peace surrounded by beautiful nature.

Around the abbey there’s a large park where families come together during the hot summer months to have a pic nic and to escape from the hot temperature in the cities.

For cyclists: you can reach the top of the Vallombrosa (1000 m) starting from Tosi or Pietrapiana but the climb from Tosi is definitely the most difficult

A short history

Vallombrosa is a Benedictine abbey in the comune of Reggello in Tuscany, c. 30 km south-east of Florence, in the Apennines, surrounded by forests of beech and firs. It was founded by Giovanni Gualberto, a Florentine noble, in 1038 and became the mother house of the Vallumbrosan Order. It was extended around 1450, reaching its current aspect at the end of the 15th century. In 1529, after the looting of Charles V, the east tower was built, in the 17th century followed the wall and in the 18th century the fishing ponds. Today, the monastery is open for tourists and is selling local products. On the 7th October 1096, Pope Urban II addressed the congregation of Vallombrosa, imploring the religious amongst them to support the cause for a crusade to the Holy Land. In particular in this sermon, he cited the need for knights, who could “restore the Christians to their former freedom”

worth a visit:

  • the ancient farmacy with natural products
  • the refectory
  • the kitchen with a huge fireplace
  • the cloisters and the antique library
  • the forest
  • the chapels path

The arboretum of Vallombrosa, which ranks as Italy’s most important collection of plants cultivated for scientific and experimental purposes, currently holds approximately 5,000 specimens, subdivided into over 700 species of trees and shrubs. Founded in 1870 by Adolfo di Berenger, the first director of the Forestry Institute, it stands on silica ground in an area where chestnut trees give way to beech trees. Today’s arboretum is divided into seven smaller “arboreta”, created in different periods, each named after the curators who have been in charge from the year of its foundation to the present day: Arboreto di Berenger (1870), Arboreto Siemoni (1880), Arboreto Tozzi (1886), Arboreto Perona (1914), Arboreto Gellini (1894), Arboreto Pavari (1923-1958), Arboreto Allegri (1976).

St. Giovanni Gualberto
In 1008 Giovanni Gualberto, a noble from Florence who had just become monk, left the monastery of San Miniato in Florence with a fellow. He wanted to find a more remote place to meditate.
After meeting San Romualdo, founder of the hermitage of Camaldoli, Giovanni Gualberto settled in a place denominated “Acquabona”, where the first wooden cells for his fellows were built.
In 1015 the monks elected Giovanni Gualberto as their spiritual leader, giving birth to a new religious congregation: the monks of Vallombrosa, following the rule of S. Benedetto, based on the “ora et labora” precept (“Ora et labora” are Latin words meaning “work and pray”).
The works to replace the original wooden structures began in 1036. Major extension works took place in 1450: the new sacristy and cells for new monks were added and, at the end of the 15th century, the abbey took on the look it has nowadays.
In 1529, after the sack by the troops of king Charles V, an eastern tower was built to protect the most precious items and books; a fencing wall and an artificial pond to raise trout and produce ice were built in the 17th century and at the end of the 18th century respectively.
The monastery, closed down during the Napoleonic age, was reopened in 1817 by the Grand Duke Ferdinando. In 1866, the newly constituted kingdom of Italy evicted the monks and the abbey was administrated by the National Forestry Administration. The Benedictines could return in 1949 only.
Several important works of art are housed in the abbey, whereas in the surrounding forest there are chapels and tabernacles (dating 16th/17th century) commemorating episodes of the prodigious life of Giovanni Gualberto.