This morning I accompanied some of the guests from Bellaugello Gay Guest House on a visit to the beautiful ancient Benedictine abbey of Montelabate. We headed down into the Tiber valley not more than 30 minutes drive from Bellaugello and finally passing fields filled with sunflowers and lined with ancient cypressus the Abbey appeared and rose high on a rocky outcrop
The Abbey is built on an ancient Roman site, indeed the crypt features three roman era columns. The cloister pictured above was built firstly in the 11th. century using columns salvaged from other buildings, the colonnade above is 12th. century with columns specifically carved for the cloister – unique in Italy
Above the crypt stands the huge 13th century church with towering vaulting and the remains of frescoes. Some of the fresco work is unusual for a Benedictine abbey in that it depicts a Christ on the cross looking downwards bearing all the pain and suffering of the world
The tour continued onwards and downwards to the cellars where for centuries wine was made. At the height of the abbey’s influence it controlled 20 castles and 30 towns stretching from lake Trasimeno to Gubbio, and wine must have been a plenty
What particularly interested me was the frantoio or oil press. Last november I brought my olives from Bellaugello to be pressed in the new ultra modern frantoio at Montelabate, part of the same estate, but today we got to see the original grind stones and presses….. Big difference!!
The visit rounded off with a simple al fresco lunch of local cheese, honey chick peas and bruschetta and wine all ingredients sourced from the estate, and of course a chance to buy biological olive oil and honey. Guided tours in English, Italian and Dutch are most mondays and cost only €13.00 and I will gladly accompany any guests from Bellaugello!