The Forest of Vallombrosa is one of the most famous parks of Italy: under the vaults of its majestic trees many people search a refreshing break and shelter from the summer heat, coming here from near and far.
When the monks settled in Vallombrosa in the eleventh century, large forests of fir and beech were already there. Keeping care of the forests was one of the concerns of the abbots, who from the timber wood (as well as the sheep-farming) drew most of the resources necessary for the life of the Abbey. The fir trunks were an important commodity, and served for centuries in the construction and restoration of buildings in Florence, so the monks did their utmost to extend and ensure the development of fir trees.
After the creation of the Kingdom of Italy, the forest was owned by the State, and in 1977, became Biogenetic Nature Reserve. Every year the Vallombrosa forest is visited by thousands of tourists, and by students of the Faculty of Forest Sciences of Florence University, who in Vallombrosa hold their study camp.
The forest covers an area of 3150 acres, at an altitude between 450 and 1450 m above sea level. The most common species in the forest are white fir, beech (mainly in the higher areas), Corsican pine and Douglas fir. At lower altitudes chestnut, oak, maple and hornbeam are growing.
The abbey was founded in 1036 by San Giovanni Gualberto, Benedictine monk who left Florence as a result of disagreements with his abbot and the bishop of Florence, which he accused of simony. Here St. John Gualberto built, along with two other monks of the monastery of Settimo, a small church, that for the following 6 centuries expanded itself and finally became the large and impressive abbey we see today. That is the headquarter of the Vallombrosani monks, a congregation belonging to the great family of the Benedictine order.