In the V century young Benedict spent three years as a hermit here. Traces can still be found in the Monastery of St. Benedict called “Sacro Speco”.
The name Subiaco comes from the latin expression “sub-laqueum” i.e. under the lakes. Three lakes were artificially created by emperor Nero under the Simbruini mountains to enrich the landscape enjoyed from his magnificent suburban villa and purify the water. Later, the lakes and the villa were lost (only few ruins are visible), but the area is still famous because a young man called Benedict moved there in the fifth century to live in a grotto as a hermit. He spent 3 years in solitude and then founded the first western religious order of monks, the Benedictines. Thirteen monasteries were built in the area and two are still intact and accessible to visitors. Romanesque cloisters, vivid frescoes and the amazing structures of chapels and cells dug in the bare rock, wild nature and woods all around you. And the “sacro speco”, the cave where Benedict lived, is still there with all of its spiritual impact.
The nearby convent of Santa Scolastica, Benedict’s sister, is equally evocative. Moreover it preserves an important library with more than 300 ancient manuscripts and one copy of the very first book printed in Italy in 1465 (De Divinis Institutionibus by Lactantius). In fact two followers of Gutenberg moved here and installed the first Italian print house at this monastery
Complete your day trip:
The area is known for its authentic food, including wild mushrooms, polenta, local dumplings, pork, trouts from local rivers. End your meal with salame del re and ciambelline al vino (local cakes and cookies, so simple and so yummy at the same time!). A good break for lunch between the visit of the two monasteries is recommended.
The Regional Park of Monti Simbruini is nearby. It is the largest park in Lazio region, it is surprising to be so close to Rome and be surrounded by a mountain ( 2000 mt.) setting, including streams and waterfalls, colourful tablelands, woods and even eagles flying over your head!
In the nearby town of Vicovaro, mid way between Tivoli and Subiaco, the hermitage of St. Benedict allows a unique experience: walking inside an ancient Roman aqueduct! The convent was created in the VI century by Benedictine monks and exploits the remains of the Aqua Claudia as a tunnel to reach some grottoes/chapels carved in the rocks and still displaying some medieval frescoes.