From the archives:
A short #36 bus ride outside of Florence and you arrive at an enormous monastic complex that today houses only four, hard working monks.
This is a great opportunity to get out of the city and view the smaller suburbs and countryside.
I visit Florence very year and all the good intentions to go outside the city are often over ruled by the endless events and experiences offered within Florence.
This year I was determined. With instructions on ‘where to get off the bus’ I was fortunate to have Sheila Ford, an expat in Florence who is a real estate agent and also offers amazing photography walks (see future post) to accompany me.
Exiting the local bus we began the walk up the long drive. A beautiful view of the countryside and the outside walls of this massive complex. There was total silence except for the birds signing from the orange trees along the drive. Later I would learn the oranges are transformed into marmalade and sold in the gift shop.
Everything was very low key. We were allowed to walk into the courtyard and visit the gift shop but all the massive doors to the church and inner cloisters were closed.
The brother assigned to the gift shop was not curios about an Italian American who could not speak Italian well so he continued to read his paper.
There may not be many visitors in the winter because the stock on the shelves was a little dusty. But I did see a nunber of medicinal looking bottles behind the counter. Later I would learn this monastery produces elixirs and other products.
We asked another brother if the 4 pm tour was being offered and he explained that yes if and only if there were 5 or more visitors.
So far we were the ONLY visitors and I was the only American. But within a few minutes several other locals arrived. A Sunday outing while the weather was warm and the day sunny for the end of November.
If you enjoy photography, every wall and arch gives you great light and shade contrast
Without any announcement the ‘gift shop’’ brother started up the long stair case and beckoned us to follow. This signal was repeated throughout the hour long tour to keep the group moving and to keep this stray American from wandering off to capture a photo.
The size and scope of the rooms we visited was astounding. Our guide had endless information about the history of the buildings and the times when they were built, changed hands or used for a school. Note: the tour is ONLY in Italian. Do not let that bother you.
Perhaps you will not know the dates of the objects in the room set up as a 'museum' but you will certainly appreciate the inner church paintings and hand carved benches.
With only four residents I expect they remained in a smaller part of this complex.
The original refectory (dining hall) was no longer used. We visited a smaller long hall with benches where formerly brothers could meet one hour a day to exchange conversions, the balance of the time they worked and lived in silence.
The massive inner cloister built around the cemetery was the most curious of all the places we visited. We entered a monks cell or aparttment to view the daily life of a meditative monk. The cell included a main room, small bedroom (bath, not visited) and small garden, about the size of a studio apartment in the USA.
Food was delivered by the other brothers and passed through an opening. The monk did not join in the life of the monetary, perhaps spending his time praying or meditating. There was a small view hole into the bedroom area from the outside of the cell. I expect if the monk did not touch the food sent in, another brother checked on his well being.
There were more than 30 of these cells facing the inner cemetery but we were NOT allowed to walk the full cloister. Does the location of meditative cells that you plan to spend your remaining life in have a significance to being located adjacent to the cemetery?
The monastery produces products they sell in their gift shop but we were not allowed inside the distillery.
A list of the many products produced
inliquore della Certosa veerde, dolce (green, sweet)
Liquote della Certosa giallo, piu secco (yellow , more dry)
Elixic di S. Bernazdo amarzo, tonico, digestivo
Rosolio al Mandarino delizioso
Brandy, puro distillato di vino
I shall visit next year if for no other reason than to find out what Elixir of S. Bernazdo is…:
And can anyone tell me how they keep this property so pristine?
For some good history and background: www.abbeys-of-tuscany.com/certosa_galluzzo.htm