If you missed your first day in Emilia Romagna, you can read all about it here.
The morning came a bit too soon, but I was lucky to be greeted by sun and warmth. Typically the weather is not so nice in November and there is a lot of rain. Like a good travel agent, I spent some of the morning touring the hotels in town. Bagno di Romana is very popular as a tourist destination for Italians, so there are several great choices.
We packed up our things and drove to the nearby National Park of The Casentino Forest. Most photos of Italy portray the country as rolling hills dotted with vineyards so it was strange to see forest. One thing still rings true; even in the forest, the country is still full of hills. Instead of vineyards though, picture full grown trees. This area is a cycler's dream!
The forest is huge and took almost an hour to get to our first destination: Antica Farmacia. Antica Farmacia is famous for their incredible beauty products which have been made by monks since the 12th century. Driving through the windy roads the monastery looked like a smoky fortress.
I was thrilled because I had visited the Santa Maria Novella store in Florence during my past trip in August. Naturally, I was excited to visit the actual monastery where the goods were produced. The Florence store is known for its beautiful baroque moldings and the shop at the monastery is just as lovely. The product line at the monastery even extends to chocolate and ceramics. I was excited to find items cost about ¼ the price of the Florence store!
Inside the shop is a museum showcasing the tools the monks used as well as old books filled with recipes and drawings.
Walking through the monastery, you will find an unassuming stone church. The ornate inside of the church hardly matches the austere outside.
In the afternoon, we headed to the monastery of San Francisco. Even though I am not Catholic, I felt a magical feeling when walking around the buildings.
The sky made the monastery extra mystical; walking to an overlook you felt suddenly over the clouds- like the monastery was close to Heaven.
The cliffs surrounding the monastery looks they were once used as places of prayer. Hundreds of tiny crosses are carved into the wall as if they were put there by a divine force of nature. Religious or not, you could not help but feel like you were somewhere special.