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Guido Parigi Bini ph. Carlotta Bertelli

July 15, 2015


Three places for the soul, and much more: art, history, spirituality, to regain one’s identity

Tuscany is rich in centers of spirituality: the region is dotted with places of prayer and worship. Some of them are close to the hustle and bustle of life, while others are secluded in the mountains and hard to reach, as if trying to get closer to infinity. Here is a selection of places of spirituality worth visiting for the history, art and culture, but also for their more intimate and deeper aspects, and both Catholic institutions and the Tuscan centers of other faiths and cultures.

The Benedictine Abbey of Vallombrosa, founded by St. Giovanni Gualberto in 1036, stands at the foot of the Pratomagno mountain, between the Casentino and Valdarno areas, at 37 kilometers from Florence. The monastery is imposing and houses a rich collection of works of art accumulated over the centuries. It consists of the Romanesque-style church, the central cloister, the library and many areas for work and rest. The monks have created a center of spirituality and religious culture open to everybody.

Based a few kilometers for the Tyrrhenian sea, behind Castiglioncello, in Pomaia, nestled in the hills of Santa Luce, is the Tibetan Buddhist Center for the preservation of the Mahayana tradition: the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute. It is housed in a countryside villa where, in the late seventies, Tibetan teachers and Western monks began teaching Dharma (the Buddha’s precepts). Converted into an international school for the study and practice of Buddhism in 1983, the Institute has attracted, over the years, people of all ages and nationality, eager to cultivate greater knowledge of their inner world. Today, the Institute welcomes guests who wish to attend philosophy, psychology and meditation classes or simply spend time in a peaceful place to pursue inner understanding and growth.

Set among the spectacular Crete Senesi, near the town of Asciano, rising on tuff cliffs is the Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, erected upon the initiative of Bernardo Tolomei (1272-1348) as the spiritual center of the Olivetan Family.

A monastery of great architectural value, it includes the Latin-cross church with one nave, the museum showing the works of art of the abbey and of other Olivetan churches and the Big Cloister, considered to be the wonder of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, with its 35 big frescoes representing the life of St. Benedict and painted by Luca Signorelli (in 1495) and then by Antonio Bazzi known as the Sodom (in 1505).

The abbey welcomes all visitors, according to the Benedictine tradition of offering physical and spiritual relief. The guest quarters include 40 rooms.  

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