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Badia a Passignano, the most astonishing monastery in Chianti

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The view of Badia a Passignano,  embraced by beautiful Chianti hills, surprises our guests arriving to Poggio a Vento with its incredible skyline. This astonishing monument is easy to reach also from Villa Torricella taking the exit 'Tavarnelle' on the highway to Siena. Stop along the road and take a picture: sunset is the most impressive moment, but the Badia offers a stunning view in every moment of the day.

A tour of the Monastery

Would you like a tour of the monastery in your language, a licensed guide will tell you the history of Badia, illustrate the artworks kept inside and reveal the secrets of those who worked here. Please contact the association Ars longa Toscana: The guides who founded this association are absolutely fond of Tuscany and its beauty, and will be glad to share with you their love for our region! www.arslongatoscana.com

Crumbles of history of the monastery, one of the oldest in Chianti

The towers crowning the monastery still tell the visitor the story of the Vallombrosian monks, who settled down here before the mid 11th century: they needed to defend themselves during the Middle Ages, when Guelfs from Florence and Ghibellines from Siena were fighting against each other and their armies were devastating the Chianti. Badia a Passignano owned farms and land in the region, and was therefore a very wealthy monastery.

Lorenzo the Magnificent, the most famous member of the Medici family during the Renaissance, gave the leadership of the monastery to his son cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici, future pope Leo X, at the end of the 15th century. The monastery was suppressed twice, by Napoleon, in 1808, and by the Italian government in 1866. The monks were finally able to buy it back in 1986.

The church of Saint Michael Archangel

The church of the abbey, dedicated to the Archangel Saint Michael, has a Romanesque facade crowned by the statue of the Saint. The original artwork, now displayed inside the church, is one of the few sculptures of the 11th century still existing in the surroundings of Florence.

The interior is divided into two different sections, for lay people and for the monks, by a wooden screen: on it two paintings, attributed to Michele di Ridolfo del Ghirlandaio, an artist of the Renaissance paid in 1549 by a wealthy Vallombrosian monk, Raffaello Nuti. Nuti commissioned also the beautiful choir stalls from Bastiano di Michele Confetto, a woodcarver of the Renaissance who worked with the architect Giorgio Vasari on the construction of the Uffizi Palace in Florence.

The top of the seats is decorate with verses from the Psalms, in Latin, ancient Greek and Hebrew, languages studied by the very cultured monks of Badia.

The tomb of the Saint

The founder of the Vallombrosian order, San Giovanni Gualberto, died here on July 12th, 1073. His burial chapel, on the left inside the church, was completely renovated in 1580: the abbot Aurelio Tabagini called the famous painter and architect of the Medici court, Alessandro Allori, to design the project. Allori left his close friend and pupil Giovanni Maria Butteri here to carry on his work.

The fresco in front of the chapel represents the moment when, in November 1580, before closing the new tomb, the abbot showed the relics of the Saint to the people that gathered in the church for this event. Peasants, noble ladies, the ruling Grand Duke, Francesco I de’ Medici, inhabitants of the village, all crowd around the monks: among them the painter, wearing a curious white cap and an apron.

A local painter of the 17th century: Domenica Cresti, “Il Passignano”

The renovation of the main chapel was entrusted at the beginning of the 17th century to an artist born in a close by farm belonging to the monastery, Domenico Cresti, well known by his nickname Il Passignano. The artist, back from a journey to Rome and Venice, designed the architectural elements and worked on the three altarpieces dedicated to Saint Michael and on the frescoes of the dome, opened onto paradise with angels singing and playing music.

The monastery and its Renaissance masterpieces

The monastery is still the home of the Vallombrosian monks, but a section of it is open to the public. In the Chapter house, adjacent to the church, a beautiful wooden Crucifix is displayed: it is a work of very high quality, dating back to the beginning of the 16th century, but its author is still unknown.

Walking through the cloister, a perfect example of Renaissance architecture dated to the early Seventies of the Quattrocento, the visitor enters the Refectory. The large room, former dining room of the monks, is decorated with a fresco representing The Last Supper, an early masterpiece of the famous Domenico Ghirlandaio.

Ghirlandaio, one of the most celebrated painters of Florentine Renaissance, prepared the drawings for the fresco in 1476 and left at Badia his very active workshop, under the leadership of his brother Davide and his brother in law Bastiano Mainardi. The master himself came now and then, to be paid and to paint the most significant details of the scene: the event takes place in a painted architectural structure that perfectly follows the rule of perspective. The amazing details of the faces, the tableware and the use of light, show a clear influence of Flemish painting, already known in Florence in the early Renaissance.

Next to the Refectory, the kitchen of the monastery has maintained during the centuries its original furniture, kitchen tools, pots and pans and the big fire place around which the monks used to sit in cold winter days.

The itinerary ends with the Italian garden, where neo Medieval additions, towers, gothic windows with pointed arches and crenelated walls recall the large transformation of the complex that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. The monastery had been suppressed and had been bought by a noble Polish family who decided to create a gothic castle, adding more neo Medieval elements to the original structure.

Food and wine in Badia a Passignano

After culture, dedicate yourself to pleasure around the table. Badia a Passignano offers a couple of very good restaurants, starting with a prestigious Osteria belonging to the Marchesi Antinori: the Osteria also rents and show to their guests the ancient wine cellars of the monastery.

If you want to dine outside, try the Antica Scuderia or the Cantinetta di Passignano. Looking for a light lunch with local schiacciata (salted bread) and a glass of wine in front of a beautiful view? Your place is the Di Vino bar!

 
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