Monasteries and abbeys near Rome: some of the main pilgrimage destinations in central Italy

These are some of the most beautiful monasteries, abbeys and holy sites near Rome, that you can reach in a day trip. These places are among the most important destinations for pilgrimage in central Italy, sources of peaceful beauty, calm, and spirituality.

1: The Sacro Speco is a wonderful benedictine monastery in Subiaco, a must see. Everything about it is incredible, starting from the location. The structure is placed against a steep mountain, with its chapels, altars, stairs, all carved from the mountain's stone itself. In this monastery you'll find frescoes of incredible quality, marvellous marble tiles and columns. You can even see the solitary niche, in the heart of the mountain, where saint Benedict himself used to pray.

Whether you're Christian or not, it's impossible not to recognize the spiritual qualities of this amazing place. And consider that there's also a second, beautiful benedictine monastery in Subiaco: it's entitled to saint Scolastica, and it's so close to the Sacro Speco that it will be super easy to visit both in the same trip. In saint Scolastica you can even sleep, as the monks have a guesthouse for the pilgrims.

by car it takes approx. 1 hour 10 minutes from Rome

Interesting places nearby

nearby: interesting places that you may include in the same trip are villa Adriana and villa d'Este in Tivoli (mid-way), the sanctuary of Mentorella (another 1 hour drive)

2: The sanctuary of Mentorella is one of the oldest sanctuaries in Europe, dedicated to the madonna delle grazie. This little jewel is located on the Prenestini mountains, anchored to a cliff on the mount Guadagnolo. There's a beautiful view over the valley and the mountains around, and a lovely picturesque town to visit nearby.

Mentorella was particularly loved by pope John Paul II, who came here several times during his papacy to reflect and pray. "This place helped me to pray a lot. And this is why I desired to come here today. Prayer, that expresses in several ways the relationship between men and god alive, is also the first task and the first annunciation of the pope".

by car it takes approx. 1 hour 10 minutes from Rome

Interesting places nearby

nearby: interesting places that you may include in the same trip are the picturesque towns of Guadagnolo and Capranica Prenestina, the benedictine monasteries in Subiaco, villa Adriana and villa d'Este in Tivoli.

3: Certosa di Trisulti is one of my favorite places on Earth. It may seem like a strong statement. It has all the characteristics of the Chartusian order: the building is hidden on the mountains, very isolated, surrounded by woods of resinous trees, inhabited by a handful of old monks who live here in hermitage. There is a church, one that almost nobody knows -even Rome insiders-, and in my opinion its frescoes are comparable in quality to those of the Sistine chapel. I'm exaggerating? Go there and see for yourself.

And then there is the ancient pharmacy, with jars and bottles containing rare drugs and herbs, things I've never seen anywhere else. And the garden, with the bushes trimmed in beautiful geometrical shapes by the monks themselves. And the little pond, with the lonely statue of the Virgin in the middle. And the nativity scene made by the monks each year, for Christmas, the most amazing I've seen in my life. This is a special place, that enriches your spirit. Recommended from the heart!

by car it takes approx. 1 hour 30 minutes from Rome

Interesting places nearby

nearby: interesting places that you may include in the same trip are the picturesque town of Collepardo, and the caves nearby ("Pozzo d'Antullo")

4: Montecassino abbey was founded in the year 529 by saint Benedict, on top of the homonym mount. In this place, previously, there was a pagan temple of Jupiter, and idols dedicated to god Apollo. Cassino -the city at the feet of the mount- was in fact part of the Roman empire. It was with the arrival of saint Benedict that the Christian history of this place begun. The temple was turned into a church, dedicated to saint Martin of Tours, and that was the initial step that led to the development of the monastery.

Montecassino has a alternate history of looting, earthquakes, destruction, and successive reconstructions. It's been completely rebuilt and renovated after the world war II, when it was bombed, and today looks absolutely beautiful. There's a lot of white marble, a museum rich of religious icons and treasures, the church to visit with interesting paintings, a lovely panoramic view, and the polish cemetary nearby.

by car it takes approx. 1 hour 40 minutes from Rome

Interesting places nearby

5: The sanctuary of SS Trinità is in a very suggestive location, near a tiny medieval borgo on the Apennine mountains, called Vallepietra. The monument, probably a neolithic rocky settlement, is the center of an ancient popular cult related to the benedictine monasteries in Subiaco. Despite the isolated location, the pilgrimage to Vallepietra endured over the centuries.

The sanctuary contains a fresco of the holy trinity, datable around the XII century and with strong byzantine connotations, popularly known as "santissima". The sanctuary is open from May 1 to October 31 (as it's in a such difficult position that often the road is blocked for the snow in winter) and every year there is a religious celebration, eight weeks after Easter.

by car it takes approx. 2 hours 10 minutes from Rome

Interesting places nearby

6: Casamari abbey is one of the most important Italian monasteries having gothic cistercian architecture, located south of Rome, in the region called Ciociaria. Its name comes from latin and means "house of marius", as this was the homeland of the Roman consul Caius Marius. Built on the ruins of an ancient temple of the goddess Cerere, and

consecrated in 1217, the abbey today hosts a community of benedictine monks who are busy with several activities, ranging from prayer to teaching, to taking care of the pharmacy, the liquorery and the library. watch video

7: Farfa abbey is one of the most relevant religious monuments of the European medieval age. This beautiful holy site hosts a community of benedictine monks, and it's located at the feet of mount Acuziano, in the sabina region. The abbey has a very long history: it was an imperial abbey, and at the peak of its power

it controlled 600 among churches and convents, 132 castles and 6 fortified villages. It was said that the abbot was more powerful than the pope, but the truth is that he was a legatee of the pope, in charge of defending Latium and representing the interests of the Holy See. watch video

8: The basilica of saint Francis in Assisi is not the nearest to Rome, but it's definitely worth the trip: Assisi is a major point of interest for Christian pilgrimage in Italy. The beautiful basilica (a UNESCO site) is the mother church of the entire Franciscan order, and it contains frescoes and paintings by some of the most famous Italian artists,

like Cimabue and Giotto. In Assisi saint Francis was born and died, and the town is strongly imprinted with religion. The streets of the medieval borgo are full of shops selling icons related mainly to the saint and to his sister Chiara. watch video

9: Valvisciolo abbey is situated at the feet of Sermoneta, a beautiful medieval town that I really recommend to visit as well. According to the tradition, the first settlement in this area was by the basilian monks of saint Nilo, and the monastery was inhabited by templar knights, who lived here until the soppression of their order,

in the XIV century. The structure includes the church, the sala capitolare, the refectory and the cloister, that represents the center of the abbey and its most elegant part. watch video

10: Fossanova abbey has been declared national monument in 1874, and it is the most ancient example of gothic-cistercian art in Italy. It was built in the XII century, by transforming a pre-existing benedictine monastery, (of which there's still a trace above the rose window of the church). The ancient cenobium was composed by a group

 of borgognoni monks, who restored the area from the swamp by escavating a new ditch (in Italian "fossa nuova"). Fossanova abbey is where Thomas Aquinas, friar and extremely influencial philosopher/theologian, died in 1274, in a small room of the abbott house. watch video

050 Notes: updated last time February 11, 2016

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