When it comes to what to see in Tuscany, we considered the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore an excellent choice. The magnificent Benedictine Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore is one of the top places to visit in Tuscany that never ceases to impress visitors with its architecture, frescoes and a wonderful sense of peace.
As I entered the grounds of the monastery complex, I felt like i was stepping back in time when life was slower and simpler. The road went through a wooded area that stayed fresh even on a hottest summer day. A choir of birds and the scent of tall pine trees made my head light. When I got to the church, the sound of Gregorian chant escaped through the slightly ajar door. I stayed outside with my eyes closed, blissfully exhilarated by the sounds and scents of the peaceful abbey.
A small community of Benedictine monks live in the Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore. Their lifestyle has not changed over the centuries since the monastery was completed in the early 16th century. They live by the ancient motto: “Ora et Labora”, “Pray and Work”. Their time is divided between the three great pillars of monastic life: prayer, sacred readings and manual work. The monastery has 850 hectares of land: woods, fields, olive groves, and vineyards. The monks farm the land using traditional methods with the utmost respect for the environment. They grow spelt, wheat, barley, oats, beans, chickpeas truffles. They also make excellent wine, grappa and a famous liqueur, which ancient recipe calls for 23 local herbs. Their herbal shop is stocked with a wide range of natural cosmetics, essentials oils, medicinal extracts and syrups.
The abbey has one of the richest collections of religious artefacts in Tuscany. Some of the best masters worked here in the 15-16th centuries. In Chiostro Grande visitors can see one of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance: a fresco depicting life of Saint Benedict painted by Luca Signorelli and Antonio Bazzi Sodoma.
You can spend hours lingering over the amazingly detailed scenes. I certainly did, forgetting about the time and place, enjoying the feast for the eyes, senses and soul that Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore offers.
Photos by Anna Lebedeva