Stretching ourselves

We needed a break from touring museums and the crowds. On a beautiful sunny day, we started our walk, passing through the Porta Romana, the southernmost gate in the walls leaving the old city of Florence.  We had a destination in mind, but, since it was 4.5 km away, we decided to be flexible.  Who knew how the walk would go and what we’d see on the way?  Our purpose was a good stroll in the Tuscan countryside.  Little did we know how this day would turn out!

The walk went smoothly, and we passed a number of small churches, more wildflowers to photograph, and crossed the river Ema. That’s when we saw our destination in the distance: the Certosa dell Galluzzo.

An explanation is in order.  In planning for the walk, we looked at an online map.  Certosa dell Galluzzo was a prominent place at just about the right distance to walk.  We looked up to see what it was.  “Certosa” is an Italian word meaning Carthusian monastery.  The Certosa dell Galluzzo was one of the largest monasteries in Europe back in the day (600 years ago).  It had everything going for it: a wonderful library, a massive and important art collection, and a school for the human sciences.

A sign at the base of the hill leading up to the Certosa indicated there were tours.  We had no idea, of course.  The next tour left in 15 minutes.  We powered uphill and bought our tickets with just minutes to spare.  One problem we hadn’t anticipated: the tour was in Italian, not a language we speak.  Ah, well. Along with about 15 others, we dutifully followed the guide.

He unlocked doors to massive rooms rich in art and frescoes.

Terracotta reliefs by Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia from the 15th and 16th centuries hung over every archway in the large cloister.  Just to see these was worth the walk.

We crossed the forecourt to enter the 16th century Church of San Lorenzo.

The Certosa dell Galluzzo dates back to 1341, funded by Niccolò Acciaiuoli, one of the wealthiest men in Florence.

All simplicity from the exterior vanished when we entered the richly decorated church in the Mannerist style.

Every detail met the highest artistic standard.  Imagine sitting here during services?

We passed from the church into the Colloquium with stained glass windows portraying scenes from St Benedict’s life.

Most doorways had frescos painted over them.

Our guide took out his keys and opened a simple door facing the large cloister. We stepped into one of the 18 little apartments where a monk lived – spending his days in solitary work and prayer. The apartment had a small study, bedroom, and garden.  Monks only spoke on Sundays and holy days.

So, you may ask, how did the tour go with our guide speaking Italian?  Very well, as a matter of fact.  He literally unlocked doors and let us browse in places we would not have been able to see on our own.  We suspected all the rich ceramic works were by the Della Robbias, which he confirmed, and we learned that a painting we saw was a copy, the original now hanging in the Ufizzi.  We puzzled out just enough, that with a little reading afterword, it all made sense.

What has happened to the monastery after almost 800 years?  In 1957 Cistercian monks replaced the Carthusian monks, but, a few years ago, with only four old monks left and unable to care for the vast complex, the certosa was turned over to the government.

Before we left, we noticed a painter around the corner from the gift shop.  We had not anticipated seeing such magnificent art and architecture on our “walk.”

As we made our way back down the long driveway, we took one more photo of the monastery complex.

We just wanted a nice walk outside Florence, preferably with a good destination.  The plan to visit a “monastery” sounded fine, but a tour of   Certosa dell Galluzzo turned out to be great visit.


April 2018




About simpletravelourway

Beth and Joe enjoy simple travel.
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13 Responses to Stretching ourselves

  1. I love the way so many of your walks result in a perfect meeting of right time and right place! And what a contrast to see the simple life of the monks versus the treasures in the church. Although you couldn’t understand the tour guide, it looks like you had no problem communicating on the more important points and seeing the many works of art within the deceptively austere monastery. 🙂 Anita

  2. Beth – What a nice surprise, and it’s wonderful that it happened on a walk 🙂

  3. Ishita says:

    Love your photos! Interesting find 🙂

  4. Mary Joplin says:

    I’m so enjoying your Florentine chronicles, and keeping them for a future visit. It’s true that the unexpected gems are the source of the greatest pleasure.

  5. What a marvellous day – just the sort we love. You were rewarded for your efforts this time and the tour was really worth it to see inside the rooms. Fantastic!

  6. We had a similar experience at Berg Eltz castle in Germany – arrived after a long walk and you had to do a tour if you wanted to have a look around – it was in German but we got the gist of what was being said – we just didn’t ask any questions. Nice walk and amazing destination.

  7. plaidcamper says:

    So beautiful, inside and out!

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