The Hermitage in Camaldoli

Camaldoli can be reached by car both from Arezzo and from Bagno di Romagna (about 30 km) following State Road 71 (Passo dei Mandrioli). Once you have reached Serravalle, a road branches off to Camaldoli, which has a few houses and the great Abbey.

The founder of the religious order of Camaldolese monks was St. Romuald. He travelled through the entire area, where he built many monastic houses and was welcomed in many others. He is linked especially to a small area on the highest slopes of the Casentino Appennines which was gifted to him by Count Maldolo of Arezzo in 1012.

Here St. Romuald built a small house of prayer with only five cells but rich in spirituality and history, as it was the first nucleus of the Camaldoli hermitage where the Camaldolese monks still live today.

The name of the congregation and the hermitage are thought to come from Ca’ Maldolo, referring to the count who had given the land to the saint. Before dying in 1027, Romuald succeeded in building a small guesthouse in the “Fonte Buono” area, in a less isolated and more accessible location, for guests and pilgrims.

This was the basis for the construction, dating back to the 16th century, of the present-day monastery which is two stories high and can hold over one hundred monks.

The hermitage itself underwent several changes over the centuries until it became as you see it today: it includes twenty cells and the Baroque church of the Holy Saviour.

The monks took excellent care of the woods, planting silver fir instead of the mixed growth of beech and spruce. We are not entirely sure why this was done: according to some historians it was done for economic reasons, since silver fir was highly prized. According to others, it was because the structure of the firs brought forth a greater sense of mysticism in the monks. In any case, the monks followed very strict rules prescribing very limited cutting and constant re-planting with silver fir.

This gave rise to the heart of the Parco Nazionale delle Foreste Casentinesi (Casentino Forests National Park).

Near Camaldoli and accessible on foot you can see a monumental cedar of Lebanon which is 24 meters high and over a meter and a half around and the Miraglia Chestnut Tree, which is 10.63 meters in girth.