Macenano Things to Do
The most magic abbey in Italy – I think
Abbazia San Pietro in Valle was on my wishlist ever since I saw a photo on Google Earth. And when I finally arrived there and I was so much amazed that I even wasn’t disappointed that I couldn’t get into the church, because it was closed for restauration. This whole place has such a spiritual atmosphere which makes it easy to understand why it was choosen for a place of worship by Syrian hermits Lazzaro and Giovanni very long time ago. Then, in 8th century, Duke Faraldo II from Spoleto, who was dethroned by his son, had a dream where San Pietro told him to build an abbey in his honour. He also found this little place in Valnerina to be the perfect spot and what we can visit today, Abbazia San Pietro in Valle, was built on the remains of the little hermitage. Faraldo II took monastic vows and lived here until his death in 728. The abbey was set up according to benedictine rules. Interesting that Faraldo’s son finally also ended up here as a monk and the church became burial place for Spoleto’s Langobard dukes. In 9th century, the abbey was ransacked by Saracens and rebuilt later by Otto III and Henry II. But during the course of time it lost its importance and influence and was pretty much deteriorated until the first restaurations started early 20th century. These are still ongoing in case of the church, and while I was staying in the hotel, I could not visit the church due to restoration of the frescoes. However, the hotel management told me that there is an old lady who would come with the keys on Sundays to open it for visitors. But as it was raining it might have well be that the old lady simply left her house (2 km away) a bit later. She does not have a car and walks up to the abbey. Which is, by the way, very much typical to the spirit of Umbria – life simply does not race here, but is slow and sedating. And this is not meant in a negative sense!
Anyhow: if you plan to visit the church, better do so during “season” – April might be too early. The photos I saw if the interior (see website below) are most magic, even if they show how the church is set up for a wedding. The frescoes are said to some of the most magnificent example of Romanesque Umbrian wall paintings.
But also the outside of church and abbey are most beautiful. Even if you don’t stay in the hotel, the staff will let you have a look inside of their premises so that you can visit the cloister and all its wonderful details. At the entrance to the church for example you’ll see two reliefs of apostles St. Peter and St. Paul (photo 4), most probably of 11th century.
For detailed photos please see my albums of cloister and church:
premises and church
(yes, I took many photos and yes, the light conditions were not the best, but I seriously hope to convince many of you to come for a visit here and maybe even stay in this most magic place for a night or two).
Update February 7, 2009:
Or view the photos in a blog of slow travelRelated to:
- Historical Travel
- Road Trip
Il Cantico: Dishes delight at "Il Cantico"
Il Cantico was the only option to eat during my stay at Abbazia San Pietro in Valle. Yes, of course, I could have gone to Ferentillo to look for other options – but then again why should I? The restaurant had a good reputation in my books and I was delighted to find it also mentioned in my “Gebrauchsanweisung Umbria” (a book written by British Patricia Clough and published by Piper Publisher, something like “manual for Umbria” – see general section). So I took a shower and dressed up (I didn’t even dare to enter the restaurant in my usual boggy clothes, haha).
When I entered through the door, I was also delighted to hear Brazilian music and the waitress (wife of the chef) was from Brazil, as it turned out later. Which was good, at least I could properly communicate with her (my Italian isn’t good but Spanish worked fine). Already outside when I looked at the menu, I decided that I will indulge in finest Umbrian dishes, not at all look at the prices or at the amount of dishes.
Il Cantico had several different choices: fish menu, “earth” menu (meat), vegetarian, and “taste of the barn” (with local farm products), in addition to a menu for couples and for groups and of course the a la carte one. Each menu had antipasti, primi, secondi and dolci, and for each of the courses “only” 5 options. But this means that all is definitely freshly made!!
Favorite Dish: The waitress realised that I had problems to choose and offered me to select whatever I want from the menus, so that I wouldn’t have to stick to only one. Good!!
As antipasto I choose the aromatic herb pie with pecorino sauce (photo 1), which was a delight! Soft and melting on the tongue. I even could identify each of the herbs by the taste. My primo was Tortiglioni with wild asparagus and mushrooms (photo 2) and my secondo “little bag of porcini mushrooms an Umbria cheese” (photo 3), which was similar like a spring roll, but galaxies away from these in terms of taste. Each dish was a piece of art, decorated with a tip of rosemary branch, the tiny violet blossoms included. And as if all my choices would not have been enough, in between the dishes we go some little this and that’s to shorten our waiting time for the next part. One was a lime sorbet, very much chilling and fresh (but only after I ate it I realised that I missed to take a photo) and the other one was a kind of desert – pannacotta and on top an espresso “gel” (photo 4). Oh, as desert I had lime and pistachio mousse (photo 5). As I didn’t need to drive anymore that evening I decided to try one of the famous Montefalco wines - oh well, as if never ever before wine had met my sensors : -)
All in all my bill was 59 € (10 € each of the starters and desert and 15 € the main dish), which, given the delicious dishes, I consider very much appropriate.
Il Cantico is closed on Mondays.
Update, October 24, 2010:
It seems that Il Cantico restaurant has closed on the premises of Abbazia San Pietro in Valle. According to the abbazia website, there is a restaurant though, called Hora Media (the photo of its inside was taken in former Il Cantico). But given the excellent service of the abbazia as hotel and the breakfast I had, I am sure the new restaurant is similar in quality dishes.Related to:
- Food and Dining
- Wine Tasting
- Luxury Travel
How to reach San Pietro in Valle
I think it will be difficult or at least time consuming to visit the abbey by public transports. The hotel, however, has a pick-up service to and from Ferentillo.
San Pietro in Valle is located at SR 209, which runs parallel to SS 3 (Spoleto to Terni).
Taken from the hotel’s website:
The nearest airport is Rome’s Fiumincino (140 km) or Perugia’s S. Egidio (80 km).
The nearest train station is Terni (20 km) and from there a bus (No. 21) to Ferentillo.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
Thanks for the recommendation :-))
Favorite thing: As I wrote in my intro, I am most thankful to Patricia Clough for having mentioned San Pietro in Valle and restaurant Il Cantico in her book Gebrauchsanweisung Umbrien (something like Umbria manual) and also Mr. Peter peter for having added it in his ADAC Umbria book.
Unfortunately, both books are in German only, but maybe Patricia Clough, being British, might publish a book about Umbria in her native language one day. She really writes very much amazing.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel