by Benedetta Tintillini
The road that runs along the Nera Valley is, in my opinion, a monument by itself, flanked by green wooded mountains dotted with the ruins of medieval towers, through which, many years ago, the lookouts would intercept our passage.
On one of these mountains, the Monte Solenne, lies the splendid complex of the abbey of San Pietro in Valle, a Benedictine monastery of the twelfth century, breathtaking for majesty and charm: the man’s work is set in a lush nature.
You enter the monastery through the guardhouse, in which there were a store room, a salon where pilgrims were refreshed, and the Guardian monk’s lodging, now used as a reception of the Residence. The sweet Federica , one of the three Costanzi sisters, owners of the hotel, is waiting there for me to let me discover this true gem.
We pass to the rooftop garden, and here my eyes just do not know where to look! 1600 meters of emerald green meadow, the end of which I admire the apse of the church and the beautiful bell tower, while, the long balustrade, the gaze is lost in the mountains in front of us and the abandoned village of Umbriano (that can be reached by a trail) the sky, the nature …
It was here that took place the market where monks and pilgrims exchanged their goods.
An archway leads to a charming little cloister, where you can see the coat of arms of the noble Ancajani family from Spoleto, former owner of
the abbey, and , above the arched entrance to the cloister, a fresco of the Madonna and the Saints. Here was located the guesthouse, on two floors there were some rooms and a living room, where the monks gave shelter to the pilgrims.
Through a pass you reach the enchanting cloister, adorned with columns on three sides, on the fourth two staircases give access to the church and the cells, now rooms, and the lovely porch.
The rooms are the former cells of the monks, there is also that of the Abbot, wider, with a fireplace in it.
Visiting the abbey you can see most recent “traces”, too: in the reading room there is a fresco depicting scenes from the life of St. Francis, and in a room there is a particular “tombstone” painted on the wall. These are the traces left by the set of “Marcelino pan y vino”, the movie shot in 1955.
The cloister also overlooks the door through which the monks entered in the church, and it is from this, flanked by two high relief with St. Peter and St. Paul, once polychromatic, that I enter, and rest spellbound by the colors and the richness of the frescoes which can still be admired.
With a single nave, a bigger apse and two smaller apses at the side, the beamed ceiling, the church houses a series of frescoes of the Umbrian school with scenes from the Old and New Testaments. These frescoes are of tremendous value because the author, 150 years before Giotto, didn’t paint the figures in frontal poses as it used to be, giving them more natural and plastic poses.
Of great significance is the main altar. It dates from the eighth century and is very rare, because it’s signed by the author, a certain Ursus. Inside the church there are five beautiful sarcophagus, too.
In San Pietro in Valle the enchantment of nature, through enjoyable beaten and marked tracks, like the easy one, along the Nera River, which leads to the village of Macenano, mingles with history, with the monastic experience, with the peculiar Umbrian atmosphere, steeped in the legacy of St. Francis and St. Benedict, who taught us to respect and enjoy what, in creation, have been given us.
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