For ages I heard my friends talking about this abandoned Monastery on the top of the Monte Venda, on the Euganean Hills. But I never visited it before. Well, finally I did it. Even if I had to stop “a couple” of times (like 10) to rest a bit and above all… breathe!
Me and my husband Matteo parked at Casa Marina, ancient farmhouse which now is a bar/hostel/nature education centre/info point/everything. Outside, there’s a tiny Botanical Garden showing the typical Euganean plants. We also saw a couple preparing their tent to camp for the night. Then we didn’t know precisely where to go. But, before entering the Casa to ask for information, we spotted a a group of persons attending a guided tour so we the seized the opportunity and… followed them 🙂
Monte Venda, Euganean Hills
Standing in front of the entrance of Casa Marina you have to go up-left. Soon after (look at that beautiful stones house!) you’ll spot a path going up on the right. That’s the road you have to take. At the next fork, go right. At the bench you’ll spot right after, do not take the path going up on the left. The tourist guide told us that is very very steep. At that point we left the group (it was a naturalistic tour to learn more about flowers and trees) and proceeded. The following crossroads (where to turn left) was a long way ahead.
The most beautiful thing was to see the Hermitage on the close Monte Rua. It was founded before 1300 were the monks still live in seclusion. Their life is made of prayer, work and study. Only in certain periods of the year they can receive the visit of family members and stroll around the Eremo.
Due to the mud (it had been raining the previous days) the path was not that easy at some point. It forced us to wander here and there to pass. Then there were also a couple of rather steep stretches. Not steep for trained people and hikers but enough for me. Then, after 1 hour and 20 minutes we did it! I thought it would have been a super isolated place, but just next to the ruins of the monastery there were the remains of a NATO military base (also abandoned).
We saw a sign explaining that the first monk to retire here was Adamo from Torreglia, who started to live inside a cavern on the top of the Monte Venda in the mid 1100s. At the beginning of 1200 other friars joined the retreat and started the construction of two small churches, later replaced by a bigger one, dedicated to St. John the Baptist.
In 1380 the Monastery was given to the Olivetani congregation (a noble order of skilful craftsmen). The Monastery was suppressed in 1771 by the Venetian rulers. Another sign at the (blocked) entrance of the “church”: Every first Friday of the month Mass in the crypt at 9.30 am. 😯
Four young men were chatting on a corner. Two hikers with their dog made a quick tour and went immediately down the road again. A young couple tightly embraced was staring at the panorama. The view is really worth it. It is also famous to have inspired the Lines Written Among the Euganean Hills by Shelley (1818). He wrote them after his daughter Clara’s death, stressing how the sight of the hills was a comfort to him in that tragic circumstance.
At this point, maybe after 5 minutes (not even the time to sit down a bit, rest and eat something) Matteo started worrying: “It’s almost 5. We must hurry, before it gets dark!”. OK. So we hurried back and in 40 minutes we were at Casa Marina again. Totally wasted by the effort. We entered the Casa, all sweaty, with red faces, messy hair. Horror. Nevertheless, they made us feel very welcome all the same. Even if we were gross 😀
We asked for a tea. We really needed it. Since we was starving, and neither of the two homemade cakes was to my liking, and Matteo is not a sweet tooth, we opted for a savoury merenda (if you want to know what it is, you can read my post about Italian merenda): a platter of sopressa, a local salami. I paired it with a Vanilla tea. I have to say: the combination was not that bad. On the contrary!
They were setting up the room for a special event: a dinner for a group of astrophiles with following planets observation. Cool! I would have liked to stay, but we were, as said, unpresentable. So we paid and finally went home for a well deserved rest.
I leave you to Shelley’s verses:
Many a green isle needs must be
In the deep wide sea of Misery,
Or the mariner, worn and wan,
Never thus could voyage on —
Day and night, and night and day,
Drifting on his dreary way,
With the solid darkness black
Closing round his vessel’s track;
Ay, many flowering islands lie
In the waters of wide Agony:
To such a one this morn was led,
My bark by soft winds piloted:
‘Mid the mountains Euganean
I stood listening to the paean
With which the legioned rooks did hail
The sun’s uprise majestical;
Gathering round with wings all hoar,
Through the dewy mist they soar
Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven
Bursts, and then, as clouds of even,
Flecked with fire and azure, lie
In the unfathomable sky,
So their plumes of purple grain,
Starred with drops of golden rain,
Gleam above the sunlight woods,
As in silent multitudes
On the morning’s fitful gale
Through the broken mist they sail,
And the vapours cloven and gleaming
Follow, down the dark steep streaming,
Till all is bright, and clear, and still,
Round the solitary hill.
Via Sottovenda, 3 – 35030 Galzignano (PD)