Monday, July 30, 2007


On Sunday we took a trip about an hour outside of Rome into the mountains to see the town of Subiaco, where the famous first monastery of St. Benedict is. On our way there, we passed by the volcanic lake of Nemi. Lake Nemi is famous for is blue water, beautiful scenery, but also possesses quite a bit of history. The Roman emperors Caligula and Tiberius frequented its shores quite often, and even built floating temples to various goddesses, including Diana. These ships were later found at the bottom of the lake, and excavated, but sadly were destroyed by the retreating Germans in 1944.

A little further on we came upon the maximum-security prison of Paliano, where approximately 25 high-profile Mafia characters are incarcerated.

Subiaco has a very interesting history from whence it derives its name. The area is one through which flows the Aniene River. The emperor Nero used to come to this area, and dammed the river in three places, creating three artificial lakes. It was on these three lakes that he built a magnificent villa, and other complexes. A town soon sprung up further down the mountain that was given the Latin name "sublaqueum" which means "under the lake". From this was derived the name Subiaco. Pictured below are two shots of all that remains of Nero's villa.

As we rounded a bend in the mountains we came upon the sight of Subiaco growing out of the rock of the mountain. When St. Benedict left Rome, he came to Subiaco where he lived as a hermit for three years before eventually starting his first monasteries.

Parking our car at the bottom of the hill we had a longish although breezy walk to the summit. Augustin found plenty of time to go "off-roading" and climb.

Once we reached the top, we got this view, so I took a shot of mom standing in front of the mountains.

A shot of me passing under a bridge, with the same mountains in the background. Pictured also is Pietro, who came along.

When you enter the monastery you first enter a series of chapels and vaults hewn out of the rock and richly frescoed by artists from Sienna and Umbria.

Descending the stairs in the photo above, you will come to the grotto where St. Benedict lived by himself for 3 years. There is a statue commemorating the Saint, as well as one showing the basket by which food was lowered to him every day.

This is the altar in one of the chapels, with some lovely Cosmati mosaic work.

A picture of Alex, Dad and Pietro in one of the upper chapels.

The frescoes in the chapels were amazing, showing all the famous events of St. Benedict's life. Here is one depicting the last meal he ate with his sister St. Scholastica.

We exited the chapels and came upon this courtyard which leads to the living quarters of the monks (we weren't allowed to enter). To the left is the library.

A picture of mom enjoying the breeze in the courtyard.

To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what this little chapel was, but it made for a nice picture.

We descended into the town, heading for the monastery of St. Scholastica, and paused for this picture of mom and dad on this overpass.

Our next stop was the monastery of St. Scholastica, St. Benedict's (often thought twin) sister. As you can see, it was a simple, but imposing building.

The monks there run a guesthouse, pictured below, so if you're ever in the area and need a place to stay...based on the looks I'd heartily recommend it!

There are three cloisters in the monastery of St. Scholastica, including this most recent one.

Before moving on, a shot of the Gothic belltower.
I must confess that I was a bit in error when I stated that the photo above was all that remained of Nero's villa. Not quite so. Much of the marble was taken from the ruins of his villa and used to construct THIS cloister within the monastery. All the white marble you see first was put in place during the time of Nero.
Here you can see that pieces were selected from the villa, marked, and brought to the monastery. Note the III chiseled into this column. Fascinating that it's in Roman numerals!
Unfortunately they only were able to find one of this type of column, so instead of having a mate, it marches by itself in its procession around the cloister.
In the cloister is a well, which has an interesting feature. The column I'm leaning on actually leads straight down into the kitchen. The monk that drew water from the well could just pour it down the column, and not have to carry it down into the kitchen.

In the third and last cloister we came across this well, which has an interesting story also. The columns as you can see are quite old, and were also brought from the villa of Nero.
Dad standing next to a statue of St. Benedict at the entrance to the monastery.
After we had seen the monastery we went out for some gelato.
On the way back we passed by this olive grove of trees which look quite old to me.
The olives themselves are quite young however. These little green nubs will ripen soon and be ready to pick. Look at how many of them there are!


DelGrosso said...

The view of Lake Nemi is beautiful, as well as the entrance to the monastery with the chapels and vaults. The little chapel did make a nice picture and the olive grove too. The whole trip looks great. Thank you for the excellent commentary as usual. Kathy looks very pretty. Very nice shot of her and Jim on the look a bit like newlyweds!!

Erika said...

It is strange to me that you all can retain such trim figures when it appears your diet consists of only pasta, wine, and gelato.

entirely unfair, as I subsist on bark and twigs and can't lose an ounce!

I'm switching to an all liquid diet of nothing but wine!!!

In other news, thanks for another great commentary on the days and lives of the DePiante clan. Stupendous, as usual. =)

Aggie said...

Great pictures of the family, love to see Jim there. Please explain.... why were you suprised to see Roman numeral III on the column from Nero's era.

I'm with Erika on the slim jim gelato affect on Kathy's figure. Guess she and I will just have to keep getting greener as you enjoy Italy's finest cuisines.