High in the Monti del Chianti, looking out across the Val d’Arno to the villages on the Pratomagno far to the east, Badia Coltibuono (Abbey of the Good Harvest!) occupies a unique place in history, and yet has a welcoming and contemporary uniqueness today. The stewards of the Abbey appear to respect and maintain history, environment and “agritourismo” in balance, without being “frozen in time”.
The abbey is situated in a beautiful mountain-top forest, sharing a meadow with a modern restaurant renowned for its cuisine. Usually, several of the meadow residents are grazing by the path, huge white Chianina cattle (a species famous as the providers of Bistecca Fiorentina, as well as for being huge and white!).
The Abbey was founded in 1051AD by a branch of the Benedictines, the Vallambrosan Order. Eventually, their well-husbanded landholdings encompassed thousands of acres. During the early 19th-Century Napoleonic rule of northern Italy, the abbey was secularized and, before mid-century, “conveyed” to a powerful Florentine banker, forebearer of the current owners.
Excellence in (Almost) All Things?
Today, Badia Coltibuono is virtually a resort embraced within an agricultural estate. Award-winning wine, EVOO, organic farming, garden tours, award-winning restaurant (in the wonderfully rebuilt stables), cooking school (founded by the famed Lorenza de’Medici), bed & breakfast and apartment accommodations, the historic abbey church, and an extraordinary site in the midst of well-managed woods and fields are all very impressive, and worth a visit, or more.
The only concern we had over three visits was not being able to raise the interest of the gift shop/wine tasting staff “down the hill” on one visit – their loss, since we were ready to purchase a full bounty of treasures and “consumables”.
Up the Mountain to the Good Harvest
Whether traveling from Rome or from Florence on the A1 autostrada, far below in the Val d’Arno (the broad valley of the Arno River, pronounced “Valdarno”), exit at Montevarchi and head west up the mountain on P408.
Just north of the junction, on the road to Radda, a little lane branches north into the deep, dark woods and leads to the Abbey. The abbey’s small gift and wine shop greets you immediately after the turn. Following the pine needle paved lane for about one-half kilometer brings you to a fine little parking area next to the abbey garden wall.
Just “think in reverse” if you are approaching from either Gaiole or Radda! Both of those routes serpentine around and up the heavily wooded ridges and ravines for which central Chianti is well-known.
The Art of Conversation
While you are at Badia Coltibuono, even though no one else may speak with you (due only to their shy natural reserve, of course…nothing personal!), you can always strike up a conversation next to the abbey wall…
…With a few friendly locals!