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