La Scarzuola is one of these places in Umbria where not many tourists go, but it is very worthwhile the detour. Guests of ours in Todi House wanted to visit this very particular former abbey and its gardens. They asked us to book it for them and we decided to join them.
The former abbey is situated near Montegiove well hidden in the green Umbrian hills. The abbey and its church was founded by the counts of Marsciano honouring Saint Francis who stayed here in 1218. It is said that Saint Francis planted a bay bush and a rose and on this spot a spring with fresh drinking water appeared. (It is more likely that he simply discovered the already existing well…). The spring still exists and the water is filtered naturally making it clean drinking water.
Saint Francis stayed here for a while and built a hut for himself from a marsh plant called “scarza”. The abbey of Saint Francis was founded next to this well. The church was built later by the counts of Marsciano. One can now see an old fresco of Saint Francis in the church made during his life. This is one of the very few fresco’s left of Saint Francis from that time. The halo surrounding his head was designed later.
What makes this abbey stand out from the many other abbeys honoring Saint Francis is its more recent history.
In 1957 the architect Tomaso Buzzi from Milan bought the abbey (or what was left of it) and its surrounding grounds. Next to the abbey he created his personal vision of his ideal city made up of many theaters. The combination of bizarre theaters, ponds, steps, buildings, and ingenious architecture makes this a unique place to visit. Some free mason elements, the vicinity of the abbey, the uncontaminated nature surrounding the area all make up for a very special experience while walking around here.
Tomasso Buzzi died in 1981 and his heir Marco Solari continued the work following designs and diaries left by Tomaso Buzzi. Also the abbey’s church was restored.
Nowadays one can visit La Scarzuola, but only after reservation. The tour is for a minimum of 8 people, but if you are less the organizers will add you to one of the existing groups. The entrance is euro 10 per person and children can go in for free. There are very entertaining tours in English by an English gentleman and the owner himself gives the tour in Italian. The website of La Scarzuola gives more information.
There are also two friendly dogs walking around. Guests that bring their dog will have to leave the dog outside. They would otherwise upset the dogs of La Scarzuola.