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La Frateria di Padre Eligio was created from the ruins of the 13th century monastery of St. Francis, the first convent to be constructed as a place of encounter and worship for the minor friars, built in 1212, just five years after the Saint’s conversion. The renovated structure is a faithful restoration of medieval monastic architecture. A community of young men and women who live and work here in fellowship as they overcome drug addiction, alcohol abuse or other spiritual crises, are responsible for this initiative, created by Padre Eligio, a Franciscan priest. Energetic and caring, Padre Eligio established Mondo X in answer to the growing need for recovery and renewal for the troubled youth of today. The restoration of the convent and the extensive gardens took over fifteen years to complete.  In the process of rebuilding a convent, more than just stones were brought back to life. The community is a beautiful reflection of traditional convent life as modelled by Italy’s beloved patron Saint over eight centuries ago.


This exemplary building is itself more than enough to draw visitors, but the gardens are surely the dwelling place of angels. From the shaded woodlands to the manicured rose gardens, from the sunny vegetable plots to the fragrant herb gardens, one wanders in total serenity. It is a garden perfumed with the scents of love, forgiveness, and spiritual renewal. These are the flowers of the seeds planted by Padre Eligio thirty years ago, now in full bloom.  From early morning to early evening, the members of this extraordinary community work devotedly at their chores, preserving the convent and keeping up the guest rooms. Countless hours and many hands are dedicated to tending the land that provides the gifts for their tables.  The cuisine at La Frateria’s Restaurant is deservedly renowned.


Guests who have the good fortune to dine at La Frateria are indeed blessed.  Walter Tripodi, the head chef, has been in the kitchen for 23 years.  Trained by excellent chefs brought in by Padre Eligio, Walter has added to and refined his cuisine to Michelin star standards and subsequently has gone on to train many other young chefs.  The dining room is intimate and simply elegant – beautiful religious art, fine linens, brass chargers, fresh flowers and hand-written menus.  The tasting menu started with a lovely glass of the sparkling wine, made from their vintage of Chardonnay and Pinot grapes. This accompanied an antipasto of their cured meats, olive and caper pastes, and homemade breads.  Each one of the six courses that followed surprised and delighted us, as Walter presented his unique combinations and artful presentations of dishes made with ingredients cultivated on the land surrounding the convent.


A sojourn in Paradise does not have to end at La Frateria Restaurant.  A wing of the monastery has been converted into a charming inn – seven rooms, two of them suites, decorated with exquisite taste - period furnishings, authentic sacred art, oriental rugs and samples of the community’s fine crafts in travertine marble or wrought iron.  Breakfast is a private affair, served in a parlour overlooking the gardens and valley beyond.   “The Friary” offers more than rooms with a view.  But the views are many, and in this silent and peaceful retreat, one has time for inner reflection as well – a rare and precious gift.


June 2008


 

All images and reviews copyright 2015 by Ginda Simpson

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La Frateria di Padre Eligio

Convento di San Francesco, 2, 53040 Cetona ~ Tuscany, Italy

La Frateria di Padre Eligio ~ Original watercolor painting by Ginda Simpson

This hotel is featured in my travel story: A Sojourn at La Frateria