I made up my mind that we really needed to take our Australian friend Diana out and about to see some local sites. So I planned a route, heading towards Cassino, taking the scenic road via Campodimele and Pico.
However, in my moment of enthusiasm (or was it madness ?) I had forgotten to take into consideration, the tortuous ascending route, with numerous vertiginous hairpin bends, that leads up to the abbey of Montecassino.
This could be considered challenging even for some confident drivers, especially when you find a bus coming at you on the wrong side of the road !!!) I was somewhat relieved as we neared to top and the Abbey finally came into vision. After a huge sigh of relief I slowly managed to prize my white knuckled hands away from the steering wheel.
I was wearing a sundress, so I donned a cardigan, as to be allowed into the Abbey you must be respectful in wearing appropriate clothing, ie shoulders must be covered, and mini-skirts and “mini” shorts are definitely frowned upon.
As you enter the Abbey you first walk through a peaceful cloister and standing in the centre of the garden is a bronze statue depicting the death of St Benedict.
From the balcony on the lower section there is a stunning panoramic view of the Liri Valley and to the right, on a hillside, the Polish Cemetery.
A wide stone staircase steps lead up to a higher cloistered area and the facade of the grand Basilica.
The inside of the Basilica is incredibly ornate and lavishly decorated with beautiful examples of intricate inlaid marble, gilded plasterwork and frescoes.
A vaulted stairway leading down to the crypt is adorned with tiny blue and gold mosaic tiles, and the chapels are also opulently embellished with beautiful mosaics.
There is a museum which houses many of the abbey’s ancient treasures (please note that this is only open on Sundays during the winter months).
There are also two shops where you can purchase souvenirs and herbal remedies and preparations made by the monks.
Nowadays, it hard to believe that this beautiful tranquil location was once the site of a fierce battle that raged during 1944, resulting in the abbey being virtually destroyed.
For more information and photos of the Abbey and Montecassino please take a look at our website: http://cassino.shapcott-family.com
All photos by me © Louise Shapcott