Vallombrosa is situated in the Municipality of Reggello, in the Province of Florence. It is located on the northern slopes of the Pratomagno Range at an altitude of one thousand meters. Dating this famous abbey is not easy. It can be assumed around 1050/60, obviously not in the shapes and sizes of today, but as a simple church with a small monastery annexed.
This place, which is already humid because of the frequent rains, is made particularly shady and cool during the summer heat by the lush forests of fir-trees, beech-trees and turkey-oaks that have always covered this mountain area. From here comes the name "Vallombrosa".
The Vallombrosano one is the own order of this monastery and it has Benedictine origins. It was founded by San Giovanni Gualberto, figure of great importance in the monasticism. The order is based on a few main points: study, work, prayer and simplicity. In 1951 San Giovanni Gualberto was proclaimed Patron Saint of the Italian Forestry Corps because of the many years of his life that he had spent in this place, immersed in its vast forests.
The name Vallombrosa for this area is relatively recent. When the monk Giovanni Gualberto took refuge here (around 1036) joining the other monks that were already living a hermit life, this area was called with several names: "Acquabella", for the goodness of its waters coming from the springs and the ditches that embellished this place or "Cerretaia", for the presence of many turkey-oak forests.
Nowadays, the abbey complex of Vallombrosa, including the inside of the church, appears with a sober and sumptuous aspect, which is the same one that was given it during the 17th and 18th centuries. During the centuries, it has undergone many enlargements and remakes. The initial simple church of half of the 11th century was replaced by a much larger one characterised by a Romanesque style, built in the Twenties of the 13th century. Nowadays, basically the only thing remaining of the one of the 13th century is just its dimensions, while its actual style was given it during the 17th and 18th centuries. On the countrary, the bell tower has kept its original style reasonably unchanged, even after undergoing several restoration works. In the 15th century other large and important remakes were done: the more visible ones are the cloister, situated between the entrance of the abbey and the entry of the church, and the great tower, located on the right side of the monastery looking from the entrance called "torrione di difesa".
However, Vallombrosa is not only this great monastery complex with its architectural, artistic, historic and spiritual values, a part of which will be shown and described by the pictures of this section. Vallombrosa is synonym of a very large grassland, of a nice little lake, of a wonderful nature with lush forests and water courses, of excursions and walks. Vallombrosa means many other curiosities nearby the abbey, most importantly many chapels to which is dedicated an appropriate itinerary. Vallombrosa is also the location of one of the most famous and interesting arboretum of Europe. We will visit this one as well in a specific section.