This morning I woke up unexpectedly early, with a bit of a headache which I’ve had since Friday. I decided to clear out the cobwebs with a run so off I went. It was just as good as the one I told you about a few days ago, if nothing else because it’s so cool at that time of the morning, in stark difference to the rest of the day and night. However, by the time I returned to Matchbox I really wasn’t feeling very well. My head felt like a hammer drill had taken up residence within it. As the day wore on I thought about going to the Uffizi for a while but I couldn’t face it. Instead I went out for tea in the Piazza della Republica. Civilised and relatively quiet which was about all I could handle today.
The headache made its explosive entrance on Friday after school finished. Let me explain. Lessons on Friday are not the same as Monday to Thursday. During the latter we do the traditional grammar, listening comprehensions, written exercises, tests and so forth. On Fridays classes change and we embrace some kind of “cultural” topic. For example, on the first Friday it was all about the make up and traditions of the Italian family and we visited buildings in Florence which linked in with this with the tutor speaking almost permanently in Italian and we being expected to follow suit.
This Friday we were introduced to the Certosa Monastery: its history, its artwork and its traditions. Our tutor gave us a short presentation on the Monastery and at about 10:15 a.m. we left the school building and made our way to the central bus station to begin our journey up to the monastery. This is just on the edge of Florence’s city limits, high up a hill, on the south side of the Arno. Unfortunately the bus doesn’t leave you at the monastery’s door. It deposits you in the town square of the nearest town and you walk up to it. We did just this. For a while we were walking in the narrow ditch on the side of a curving, filled with blind spots, main road with cars zooming past us and drivers waving their fists at us in reprimand. Reckless doesn’t even begin to cover it!
Eventually we arrived, thankfully unscathed, albeit a little overheated and with nerves a little frazzled. We waited in the courtyard because there are rules to visiting this monastery. There are tours given which are led by a monk and there must be a minimum of eight people for the tour to be deemed worth the monk’s time. It is a free tour – at the end you make a private donation should you feel inspired to do so. When enough of us had gathered we were summoned by the monk leading the tour: he blew his whistle(!) and signalled for us to follow.
The monastery holds a silent order within it. Monks here live and work in silence with only a one hour per week lifting of this when they gather in a room specially designed for them to meet and chat.
Otherwise they remain in their cells which are ample, but completely basic, where they work, eat and pray. There is a refectory but they only gather there on Sundays and on special days. They eat in silence with a member of the order reading from the Bible as they tuck in. It’s a stark way of life.
The monastery houses a selection of beautiful frescoes and has a stunning church within its walls. I really didn’t expect the latter and as our guide
walked us through the doors into the church I was left truly surprised by the view in front of me. Taking photographs is a no-no on the whole but I smiled at the monk and in my best Italian asked for permission to capture a few. It worked! He was very gracious.
Once the tour was over we headed out. By this time it was mid-day and we had to walk back down to the town square for the bus. And if it was bad on the way up then it was infinitely worse on the way down as there was no shade, levels of traffic had greatly increased and the temperature was hitting 38 degrees. It bordered on cruel and unusual punishment and not the interesting, fifty shades type.
It was an interesting visit, don’t get me wrong, and the photographs are quite lovely. But, oh my goodness, the headache it sparked has really put a dampener on today. Still, tomorrow’s another day.