The Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, Asciano, Siena, Italy

The Abbey of  Monte Oliveto Maggiore/Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore

For our last day in Tuscany we wanted to visit a historic winery, but with so many choices, didn’t know where to start. Our hosts at La Mucchia Casa Vacanze suggested we visit The Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, where we could experience the ancient Benedictine monastery known for their Gregorian Chants, winery, 800-year-old pharmacy and a monastic library with over 40,000 volumes.  In the portico, there are 36 amazing frescoes begun in 1497 by Luca Signorelli featuring the life of St Benedict, and finished in 1508 by the artist Il Sodoma. The beautiful Refectory is adorned with frescoes by Fra’ Paolo Novelli.

As we left to journey through the Tuscan countryside, low clouds trailed along the hills, shrouding Cortona from view.

Cortona fog shrouded hillThe Tuscan scenery is amazing, and we’ll have to return when the sunflowers are in bloom. We visited the first week of October and harvest season for the grapes was in full swing, and the sunflowers were being combined and the fields disced under for winter.

Tuscan country estate

Tuscan countryside golden hills

Tuscan countryside view

Tuscan countryside, estate on ridgePassing through a small town along the way…

Tuscan town road to PienzaWe arrived at The Abbey, parked in the parking lot  and entered through the arched gateway.

Monte Oliveto entrance bridge leavingThey have a little cafe and patio at the entrance tower area.

Monte Oliveto outdoor cafe

You then walk down the brick walkway to the monastery buildings. For those that are handicapped or have trouble with uneven surfaces, there is a road that runs parallel to the pathway that leads down also. The cedars tower above and sigh in the wind…

Monte Oliveto brick sidewalk to monastery

  When you get to the bottom of the path, here is the view…Monte Oliveto monastery bldg & statueCarving on the base of the statue in the courtyard.

Monte Oliveto statue carving on base

Monte Oliveto church entranceThe fresco cycle wraps around the interior walkway of this courtyard

Monte Oliveto inner courtyardAnd here are the most amazing frescos of Luca Signorelli and Il Sodoma. There is so much wit and character in the little details – you can stand and look and look and still see things you have overlooked. We didn’t have much time to absorb the paintings or learn much, as we arrived just a little while before they closed. Be sure and give yourself several hours if you really want to appreciate the monastery. I snapped lots of shots to be able to look at them later.

Monte Oliveto 2 corner panels

Monte Oliveto artist self portrait panelI love the cat and dog in a stand-off at the foot of the table in the next one

Monte Oliveto fresco cat and dog, dinner table

Monte Oliveto girl and dog

Monte Oliveto hallway

Monte Oliveto horses and monks panels

Monte Oliveto kneeling figure painting

Monte Oliveto angels fighting

Monte Oliveto ladies panel

Monte Oliveto monk dining portion of panel

Monte Oliveto monk walking down hall

Monte Oliveto monks and knights panel

Monte Oliveto monks and ladies

Monte Oliveto monks lying down

Monte Oliveto monks standing, beard

Monte Oliveto painted panels hallway  Monte Oliveto panel with glass inset

Monte Oliveto people, monk, turk panel

Monte Oliveto portion of panel turks

Monte Oliveto Wally and paintings

Monte Oliveto war horse, riders panelInside the Abbey

Monte Oliveto white columned domed chapel

Monte Oliveto oval paintings chapelMonte Oliveto painting, mother and child

Monte Oliveto gold filigreed chapel

Monte Oliveto crucifixion painting

Monte Oliveto monk mosaic look panel

After our quick tour, we went to the pharmacy and gift shop where we purchased a jar of the unguent for arthritis. I was interested to learn that bee sting venom was included in the ointment and it had a very pleasant smell. I’m not sure if it helped Wally’s knee that much, and we gave it to my mother when we got home for her arthritic hands.

Monte Oliveto pharmacy ointment shelfOur next stop was the winery cantina, which stayed open later than the Abbey itself. The doorway at the bottom leads into the wine cellar.

Monte Oliveto monastery wall

Monte Oliveto winery cantina entranceThey offered three choices and their labels were eye-catching, especially the red-robed monks label.

Monte Oliveto wine on shelves  Monte Oliveto Wally, wine cellar

Monte Oliveto liquor casks

Monte Oliveto olive press

Monte Oliveto stoneware storage urns

Monte Oliveto vineyards sign

Monte Oliveto tasting room peopleBesides wine, they also sell grappa, chick peas, spelt and olive oil.

Monte Oliveto tasting, grappa selectionTime to sample and learn. Our wine steward spoke several languages and guided us through the history of their products.

Monte Oliveto tasting, Wally

Monte Oliveto tasting conversation

Wally liked the grappa

Monte Oliveto Wally with grappa

Monte Oliveto pouring wine for tastingWe decided on a small bottle of grappa and a sampler 3-pack of their red wines

Monte Oliveto grappa bottle

Monte Oliveto wine box set

Monte Oliveto Jamie and box set

We walked out the road instead of the uneven brick sidewalk.

Monte Oliveto majestic cedars

This neat little building was next to the road.

Monte Oliveto cupola top little bldg

Monte Oliveto little building on roadThis is the view as you leave the entrance gate …Monte Oliveto entry tower building

Here’s the official website of the Abbey to learn more:

http://www.agricolamonteoliveto.com/default.asp?id=437

Here is an informative link that tells more about the history of the Abbey:

http://www.casasantapia.com/engels/monteolivetomaggiore.htm

Our purchases at Monte Oliveto…

Monte Oliveto purchases

Monte Oliveto monk walking down hallOur next stop is the hilltop town of Pienza, renowned for their pecorino (sheep) cheese! Stay tuned…

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Categories: Travel: ITALY | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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