You Need To Know About This Abandoned Monastery In Tursi!

It’s hard to imagine that there are still places in Italy that feel undiscovered. Each year Italy gets somewhere between 33 million and 58 million tourists, but the bulk of them stick to the most famous destinations. It amazes me that you can escape the crowds and still find totally incredible places, filled to overflowing with priceless art, history and treasures, without a t-shirt shop in sight!

This year when my June Glam Italia Tours were done I slipped off down to the deepest south, (very) southern Basilicata, to stay with my friend Martine at her idyllic Orangery Retreat. I wrote about the Orangery Retreat here. (Make sure you check this post out – this place is fantastic!)

In case you don’t know where Basilicata is, imagine Italy being the shape of a boot. The long, thin heel of the boot is Puglia, the toe of the boot is Calabria, and the instep, running between the two is Basilicata.

The Orangery Retreat is a series of vacation rental apartments in historical La Rabatana, a hill town just above the town of Tursi. La Rabatana was built in the 800s by the Arabs (Saracens), who ran the show for the next 400 years.

RELATED POST: SECRET BASILICATA – THE ORANGERY RETREAT

The Convento of San Francesco

At some point after they left, a church and monastery, known as the Convento San Francesco, was built across the gorge from La Rabatana, sitting atop its own hill with its own majestic view.

The Convento San Francesco seen from the Mandarin apartments at the Orangery Retreat in Tursi, Basilicata, Italy
View of the Convento San Francesco from the balcony of the Mandarin at the orangery Retreat in Tursi, Basilicata

From the balcony of the apartment I stayed in, the Mandarin, I had a clear view of the convent. Martine told me it was abandoned and had frescoes dating back 700 years. I live for opportunities like this, so the next morning we drove over there to have a look. The Convento is only 5 minutes drive from Martine’s resort, plus another few minutes walk along an undriveable road.

The town of La Rabatana in Trsi, Basilicata, southern Italy
Looking back at La Rabatana from the Convento san Francesco

Standing in front of the convent/monastery I looked back across the gorge at La Rabatana and my apartment at the Orangery.

I would love to be able to give you the full run down on the abandoned church and monastery, but google as hard as I might, there seems to be very limited information available about it, and that which I did find was both full of holes and what appear to be some inaccuracies. Which just makes it even more fascinating.

My heart was pounding as we walked in – Martine wasn’t kidding when she said it was abandoned!

walking into the abandoned church at the Convento San Francesco in Tursi, Basilicata

It has also been raided.

Interior of Convento San Francesco in Tursi, Basilicata

I saw one blog post about the convent that said it was abandoned in 1914, but somehow I think it was possibly long before then. This place has been stripped to the bones.

There are gaping holes in the floor where tombs used to be.

empty tombs in the Convento San Francesco in Tursi, basilicata
The tomb on the left is where the noble woman was found

Not too long ago a tomb containing a noble woman holding her baby was excavated. Her dress was intact and is in the local museum. I am dying to know who she was, why she was buried in the nave of the church (in terms of hierarchy this is quite significant) and how she and the baby died.

The Art Hiding Inside The Abandoned Church

Inside the Convento San Francesco in Tursi, Basilicata
There are frescoes hiding behind these baroque walls

At some time during the Baroque period, the inside of the church got a retrofit. Huge baroque installations were built over the original frescoes, hiding them for centuries. As the baroque pieces were stolen and carted away frescoes emerged underneath.

hidden frescoes in the abandoned church at the Convento San Francesco in Tursi, basilicata
Hidden frescoes in the church
RELATED POST: 10 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN MATERA
frescoes behind the walls in Convento San Francesco, Tursi, Basilicata

Here is where it gets even more interesting. As I researched the convent/monastery I kept seeing a construction date of 1441. But that cannot be correct because frescoes freed from behind the baroque fixtures are dated to 1377.

frescoe in Convento San Francesco, Basilicata, dated to 1377 A.D
Fresco dated A.D. 1377

Similar to the artwork in Matera, which is perhaps an hour drive from Tursi, the style of painting is very Byzantine. This shows just how cut off from the rest of Italy Basilicata really was. This was the era of Giotto. Italy was full of artists painting in a gothic, gilded style. Faces had changed, art had changed. But not in deep Basilicata, where the art movement was two to three hundred years behind.

byzantine art in the Convento San Francesco, and abandoned chhurch in Tursi, basilicata, Italy
Byzantine style fresco, painted in 1377 inside the abandoned church in Tursi

Seeing these frescoes made me feel the same as when I first saw the frescoes in the rupestrian churches in Matera and at the Crypt of the Original Sin. It knocks the wind right out of you, leaves you speechless.

RELATED POST: HOW TO USE THE TRAINS IN ITALY

And how crazy that these treasures sit unprotected in a church that has been stripped? Looking along the length of the wall at the baroque architecture all I could think was how many exquisite paintings are hidden away behind here?

Italy is full of little towns like this, economically disadvantaged but with sensational church art that goes unprotected. In my travels across the country I always get excited to find these churches and have always marveled at how the local people have taken care of them despite a complete lack of funds. So seeing the Convento San Francesco in this terrible state was totally jarring.

RELATED POST: 10 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT PUGLIA

The Abandoned Monastery

Attached to the church is the (also abandoned) monastery. This has been attempted to be repaired but in a particularly nonsensical, grotesque way. Concrete, and badly done concrete at that, defies logic.

ugly concrete restoration destroys the look of the abandoned monastery at Convento San Francesco, Tursi, Italy
Ugly modern concrete restorations at the abandoned monastery make no sense at all.

But you can still walk into the monk’s cells and see where and how they lived, while marveling at their views across the valley below. Unfortunately they now have ugly concrete floors, but it is still pretty fantastic to see.

Window in a monk's cell in the abandoned monastery at Convento San Francesco in Tursi
Room with a view. Inside a monk’s cell in the abandoned monastery at Convento San Francesco
view from monk's cell in the abandoned monastery at Convento San Francesco in Tursi
missing floors inside the abandoned monastery at th Convento san Francesco in Tursi, basilicata
Missing sections of floor and pieces of walls, the interior of the abandoned monastery also feels stripped

Another thing I found interesting with regard to when the Convento was built is the dome on the tower. It looks very Arabesque, which makes me wonder if it predates the 1377 frescoes, or if it was a later addition? I will have to add studying the architectural history of Basilicata to my to do list, just so I can figure this one out!

modern concrete restorations below the dome at Convento San Francesco in Tursi
Ugly concrete making for a surreal restoration attempt of the monastery. Look at the dome and its interesting shape

Next time I stay at the Orangery Retreat in La Rabatana (I seriously cannot wait to get back there!) I want to find a local historian to explain everything here at the Convento to me. And then to take me on a walking tour through the fascinating town of La Rabatana. This place is an absolute treasure trove for anyone interested in history.

Did I mention I cannot wait to go back??

Is planning your trip to Italy stressful? Get insider info on everything from finding the best deals on flights, to how long to stay, where. Find out which wines and foods to order in each region of Italy, tips on everything from how to use the trains, the ins and outs of shopping, how to order coffee, what to do if you get sick while you’re away and much, much more in my Best Seller Glam Italia! How To Travel Italy: Secrets To Glamorous Travel (On A Not So Glamorous Budget)

For more information on the Orangery Retreat see their website here


728x90 Get Quote

Airplane Etiquette ~ What You Need To Know Before You Fly

flight attendants

Spend enough time on planes and you will be horrified at the way some other travelers behave. Most people however are unaware their behavior is offensive and would be embarrassed if they knew. Sitting next to someone doing any of the following things can ruin your flight, but not only do you not want to sit next to this person, you don’t want to be them!

With that in mind let’s look at some airplane etiquette items, to help you become the ideal traveler.

1. Take A Shower!

I don’t know why this even needs to be said, but for the love of God take a shower the morning you are flying! You may think you smell fine, but that musty smell people get when they haven’t showered is gross. Especially when you are trapped next to it on a long flight. Or any flight.

2. Use Deodorant

Again, really?? I had a lady argue with me about this on a travel forum recently. She said why bother when you will jut be sitting there next to strangers anyway? Here is why – B.O is gross. No one should have to smell your B.O on a flight.

3. Wear Clean Clothes

Even if you have been backpacking for 6 months you can find a basin, some water and some soap and at least wash a t-shirt and some undies a couple of days before you fly. Being stuck on a plane next to someone who is smelly is just plain awful, and unfair.

RELATED POST: HOW TO PACK A SUITCASE LIKE A PRO

4. Dress Appropriately

The first thing to think about is being comfortable and warm when you fly, but you also need to be appropriately dressed. Don’t have your boobs half hanging out, your belly out, short shorts etc. Do all of that at home by all means, but on a flight you need to think of others too.

I was stuck next to a girl in a crop top recently, and her belly rolls were all over the place, with her bare skin not only squishing into our shared armrest, but also flopping over into my seat space.

Some airlines won’t let you on if you are inappropriately dressed, others don’t care.

5. Don’t Pick Your Nose, Ears or Any Other Body Part.

This is just basic decent manners. If you need to get something out of your nose/ear/bandaid/other body part, go to the bathroom and do it there. It is so unbelievably gross to be stuck next to a picker.

RELATED POST: CREDIT CARD TIPS FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL

6. No Manspreading.

Dudes, I get it – you want to spread your legs, claim someone else’s space, and draw attention to your crotch. But for God’s sake, cool it. Your space is what falls between the arm rests, nothing beyond that. So keep your leg out of the aisle and out of the person next to you’s space. It doesn’t make you look like an alpha male, it makes you look somewhere between insecure and rapey, especially if you are sitting next to a female.

manspreading.

I have exactly zero problem telling any dude to get his leg out of my space, but plenty of women get intimidated (which is probably why you do it) and won’t say anything. It’s not cool, so stop it.

7. Stay In Your Own Lane

Keep your body inside your seat. Your thighs don’t belong in my seat, your arms don’t belong there either. We all have paid for the space that lies between the armrests, so you need to keep all of you inside that space.

If you have a window or aisle seat you can lean to the side or adjust yourself to get comfortable. The person in the middle seat has nowhere to go so they get both armrests – it’s only fair.

Also, keep your hair out of other people’s business.

RELATED POST: 7 TRAVEL ACCESSORIES YOU CAN’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT

8. Keep Your Feet On The Floor

bare feet on airplane
oh come onnnn!

You may be all up on your comfort game, but feet need to stay on the floor. Whether bare feet or in socks, it is never ok to put your feet up on the seats or on the armrests of the seat in front of you.

bare feet on airplane
this is rude, inconsiderate and plain gross.

9. Don’t Bring Smelly Food On Board

I’m a huge advocate of bringing healthy snacks when you fly. Sometimes you wind up bringing something more substantial on the plane with you, but just make sure its not smelly.

Tuna Salad Sandwich

Be considerate of others when bringing food on board. Tuna sandwiches, fast foods, Chinese food – smelly foods don’t only bother the people sitting immediately around you, but also stink out that entire section of the plane. The smell of McDonalds remnants is even more gross 3 hours into a flight than when you board with it.

While we are on food, also don’t bring messy foods that you can spill on someone. I have had starbucks tipped on me, and pho splashed on me. It’s not fair, don’t bring them on board.

10. Take Out Your Trash

trash left on airplane
On what planet is this considered acceptable??

Before landing the flight attendants always come by with trash bags to collect any refuse you have. Rather than dropping trash on the floor, put it in the bag. If you have been sticking dirty tissues etc in the seat back pocket, now is the time to trash them. Don’t leave a mess behind.

Sunset In Rome ~ You Need To Know Where To Watch It From

Most tourists get so caught up in the hustle and bustle happening at street level in Rome that they don’t realize just how completely gorgeous Roman sunsets are. There’s too much going on: too many people, too much history, too many breathtaking sights – Rome is a glorious sensory overload.

late afternoon in Rome at the Forum
This is not my photo – check out @RomeGreatbeauty on Instagram

It is easy to lose yourself in the sheer majesty of the city and miss the delicate moments she has to offer. Sunset is one of those moments. If you know where to go you can get up high and watch the apricot veil drape over the city, making the ancient ruins and the Baroque buildings glow in the near ethereal light. The soft haze starts drifting upwards, as if 3000 years’ worth of souls are floating up into the evening sky.

Castel Sant' Angelo at sunset
Castel Sant’ Angelo at sunset via @takemyhearteverywhere on Instagram

After years of traveling to and from Rome I have learned to make sure I am somewhere fabulous at the end of the day to watch the sun set over the Eternal City.

RELATED POST: 10 THINGS YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST DO IN ROME

In my book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome I devote an entire chapter to the 7 best places to watch the sunset in Rome.

One of them is in my neighborhood, the Trastevere.

Walk to the end of via Geofreddi Mamelli, go up the stairs through the park-like surrounds and follow the road to the Garibaldi Monument.

sunset on the janiculum hill in Rome
My favorite place to be in Rome at suset is up here, on the Janiculum Hill at the Garibaldi Monument

This is the Janiculum Hill. From the viewing points you can look out across Rome and spot every monument and building you have visited that day. You get an incredible perspective on how small the heart of Rome really is. The first time I went up here I was shocked to see how close the Monument Vittore Emanuele II (the Wedding Cake Building) and the Roman Forum are to the Pantheon.

RELATED POST: 14 FABULOUS FACTS ABOUT PIAZZA NAVONA
View of Rome from the Janiculum Hill in the late afternoon
Just before sunset, from the Janiculum Hill on my iPhone

This is my favorite place in Rome to watch the sunset, for two reasons. Firstly you are across the river (Tras-tevere) so you are looking out at Rome rather than from within Rome.

the dome of St Peter's in Rome at sunset, from the Garibaldi Monument
The sun setting over the dome of St Peters, seen from the Garibaldi Monument on the Janiculum Hill

Secondly you are behind the Dome of St Peters, so rather than looking and photographing into the light you can watch the sun turn the dome into a magnificent apricot-orange ball. I don’t even know how many times I have come up here to watch it, but it has never lost any of the magic.

Rome's Garibaldi Monument at sunset via @tonyhofvander on Instagram
Rome’s Garibaldi Monument at sunset via @tonyhofvander on Instagram

You don’t really see tourists up here. You will meet lots of locals, walking their dogs, going on dates, stopping to enjoy the view. The American school and the Spanish school are nearby, so sometimes you will run into college kids.

RELATED POST: HOW TO GET FROM ROME AIRPORT INTO THE CITY

Sunset up on the Janiculum Hill is peaceful and beautiful and gives you a lovely respite from the hubbub of the busy city. On the way back down the hill there are wine bars and restaurants to stop at, or you can walk into the Trastevere itself where there are endless eateries to choose from.

early evening drinks with a view of rome from the Janiculum Hill
Post sunset drinks and snacks up on the Janiculum Hill in Rome

The Janiculum Hill is across the river from the heart of Rome, and is an easy walk from anywhere in central Rome.

Find out more about the best places to watch the sunset in Rome in my new book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome, available worldwide on Amazon.com

Want to know where to find the Best Rooftop Bars in Rome? Download my free PDF here.

Follow @takemyhearteverywhere on Instagram

Follow @RomeGreatBeauty on Instagram

Follow @tonyhofvander on Instagram

101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome Book
My new book Glam Italia! 101 Fabulous Things To Do In Rome is now available worldwide on Amazon.com

450x75 Need Travel Protection?

Join The Corinna B's World Newsletter!
Special Information For My Private Group Only

Join this private group to get special information about travel in Italy that doesn't get posted on the blog.

Private Group members receive newsletters telling them the secret stuff, from the restaurants I love to my favorite secret towns in Italy and much more!