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Dateline: 11/25/97

VallombrosaThis has been a long, dreadful week with miserable weather, one of those that sets one to thinking about summer. Of course, come summer, when the thermometer climbs towards 40 (that's high 90s for the Fahrenheit crowd) one begins to dream of winter -- or head up into the hills. Vallombrosa is one of the most popular destinations, a beautiful shaded valley (that's what the word means) above Pontassieve, in the Casentino region that separates Florence and Arezzo.

Vallombrosa, the churchIt's easy to reach, either by public transportation or car; if you're driving from Florence go to Pontassieve, then follow the signs for Vallombrosa. The road winds through beautiful countryside, then climbs up into pine forests, and before you know it you'll have reached 900 meters and it will be wonderfully cool. The road then opens out, with a vibrantly green meadow to the right, and you've arrived.

What's there to do? There's a monastery at the head of the valley, the mother house of the Vallombrosian order founded by Saint Giovanni Gualberto in 985 (it was thoroughly rebuilt in the 1600s), which has a nice courtyard, a pretty church, and a plaque that commemorates a visit from Dante. There's a restaurant, with tasty but simple fare, next to the monastery. There are the woods with towering trees to explore. But most of all there's the meadow, which is the perfect place to settle back and relax, in the shade of a tree. Bring a blanket, a book, and a picnic lunch, and you're set to weather the hottest weather.Dante's plaque

Have a great time,
Kyle Phillips

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Text and Photos © Kyle Phillips.

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