Hermitage of Calomini

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In Tuscany we don’t only have the sword in the rock, but we also have the 'hermitage in the rock': it is located in Calomini in Garfagnana has quite literally been excavated from the mountains. Like the ones that kept the ancient sword stuck, even the rocks surrounding the Monastery bear witness to ancient legends that mix faith, superstition and a pinch of mystery. On the other hand, Garfagnana is one of the most mysterious areas in Tuscany: it goes from ghosts like Linchetto and Bufardello to aliens who supposedly landed in Gallicano. Eremo di Calomini di Vergemoli is an ancient monastery born in a beautiful natural setting, where time has not altered the peace and silence that distinguish it. Pilgrims have visited it for centuries as a place of faith and prayer but, if your spiritual orientations are different, it is still worth inserting it in your itinerary. The beauty of this ancient hermitage and the surrounding nature will give you beautiful emotions.

HOW TO REACH EREMO DI CALOMINI (LUCCA). The Calomini hermitage is located in Garfagnana, the green valley of northern Tuscany between the Apuan Alps and the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines. The Hermitage is located in Vergemoli (Lucca) in the Municipality of Gallicano close to other interesting destinations such as the beautiful Lucca (41 km), Barga (10 km) and its caves, the delightful village of Coreglia Antelminelli (18 km) and Bagni di Lucca (22 km). Are you wondering how to get to Eremo di Calomini? From Lucca, follow Strada Statale 12 del Brennero towards Borgo a Mozzano. Then take the Strada Provinciale 2 Lodovica and continue on Strada Statale 20 until Gallicano. Here you can take the road leading to Grotta del Vento, then proceed to the junction towards Verni and Trassilico and after about 450 meters you will reach a narrow street that leads directly to the hermitage square. If you are a hiking fan, you might know that in the area surrounding Eremo di Calomini in Garfagnana, there are several walking paths, one of which is definitely the one that starts from Gallicano, it is about 6 km that you can complete in a couple of hours. There are also mountain bike paths like the 27 km one that make a sort of ring starting from the village of Calomini, passing by Grotta del Vento, the slopes of Pania Secca, Vergemoli Italy and before returning to the starting point goes right up to the Hermitage. For lazier walkers there is also a half-hour walk: just follow the new trail that from the village of Calomini Italy leads to the Sanctuary. You can’t get easier than that!

TWO LEGENDS, ONE SANCTUARY. What does your eye see upon arriving? A church, half of which is dug into the rock on a wall with a cliff of 70 metres! The complex is literally embedded in the rock and is a wonderful example of rock architecture. One of the first things you will ask yourself upon arriving is why a hermitage was built in such an arduous place. The truth is that hermits have always looked for places surrounded by beautiful, unspoiled and wild nature, but all isolated. In this case however, the legends related to the birth of the Sanctuary give us some indication of the choice of this place. There are two versions of the legend: we shall tell you both, then you can choose which one you like the most! According to one of the two tales that have been handed down since the year thousand, a woman fell from the cliff, and as she was falling she invoked the help of the Madonna. When she reached the ground, thanks to the divine intervention, she stood up as if nothing had happened; at the point where she rose, a place of worship was dedicated to the so-called Madonna della Penna. The other legend tells us the story of a shepherdess: climbing up the mountain she found the statue of the Virgin of the Martyrs, right where now there is a fresh water source. People thought it best to find a place more suitable to the relic, so it was decided to bring the statue of Eremo di Calomini to Gallicano. Inexplicably, not even 24 hours later, the statue disappeared from Gallicano and reappeared exactly where the shepherd had found it. At that point it was concluded that Madonna wanted the statue to be located right there and nowhere else. The place became a destination for pilgrimages and the rest is history.

EREMO DI CALOMINI HISTORY. So, in the place where the statue of willow wood was found or where the woman fell, from the twelfth century onwards, some people decided to live in the caves in the surrounding area. It is known that around the 12th century there was a small ‘romitorio’, a structure where one or more hermits lived. There was also a small church dedicated to 'Sancta Maria ad Martyres'. Between 1300 and 1600, the custody of the small cell passed on to several laymen who took on the task of taking care of the place so dear to the devotees. The number of pilgrims, in fact, kept on growing, and more and more often they crossed the path bard footed. Between 1631 and 1690 the locals decided to contribute to making the ancient church even more majestic. Around the 1700s the colonnade on two levels was added, the cave was enlarged so that the Church itself became bigger and the floor was paved. Still in those years the altar of the Madonna (1718), of San Biagio (1734) and finally of San Giuseppe (1743) were added. In 1810, because of Napoleonic laws, as was the case for all other religious institutes, all the goods were confiscated from Calomini, Tuscany. After the end of the Napoleonic confiscation, the structure was kept by the hermitages, at least until 1868, after which the priests of the neighbouring villages took over. In 1941 Eremo Calomini was entrusted to the Capuchin Friars until 2011, when it passed permanently into the hands of the congregation of the ‘Discepoli dell’Annunciazione’.

VISIT EREMO DI CALOMINI. Hermitage of Calomini can be visited all year round but the opening hours are different. In winter, in fact, you can only enter on Sundays and public holidays, and in any case, it is advisable to make a phone call before you go all the way up! In the summer, the structures of the monastery are open every day. At the Eremo di Calomini, Mass times follow the same rule: they are more frequent in the months of greater affluence, particularly in May, the month dedicated to Madonna, the period in which the hermitage is visited most by pilgrims and religious people. In this place you can receive 'Plenary Indulgence' which was granted by Pope Pius VII. For those who have not recently attended Sunday school recently, indulgence allows to free yourself from the consequences of sin but before, in addition to being sincerely repented, one has to confess, take Holy Communion and recite a series of prayers. Obviously, you can also visit the Hermitage as simple tourists, enjoying the scenery and beauty of the buildings.

  • Church. It is literally excavated from the rock that is clearly visible in the presbytery and in the sacristy. Although the original nucleus dates back to the Middle Ages, the Church, thanks to the massive use of stucco, basically looks like an eighteenth century building. The large portal is characterized by six briquettes, two larger ones depicting the four evangelists and two smaller ones for the Cherubs. The main altar and the tabernacle are made of white, yellow and red marble. We are practically on the Apuan Alps, the marble was right at their fingertips! The lateral altars, being less in the centre of attention, alternate marble with local stone. The confessional and pulpit are made of wood and date back to the 18th century. Still of wood, in this case of carved nut, are the choirs behind the main altar. Inside the church there are also some paintings depicting the Virgin, some Saints and the Holy Family. The vaults of the presbytery include the depictions of biblical episodes and inscriptions left by the people who worked in the construction of the church. Finally, the effigy of the Virgin of the Martyrs is placed behind the presbytery in a special niche made in the rock.
  • Sacristy. It can be accessed from the church and, with its stone ceiling, is a silent and evocative place, much more gathered than the church. Like the ancient chapel built in the rock and called 'La Grotta', the sacristy also dates back to the original nucleus erected around the year 1000. Inside there is some beautiful cherry tree, chestnut tree and hickory furniture dating back to the 1600s and that, reflecting the style of the time, are finely decorated.

The hermit also includes the cells used in ancient times by the hermits and some common premises such as the kitchen and the refectory but these, unfortunately, are not always accessible. Access to the square from which you can enjoy a fantastic panorama is, however, always granted. On one side you will see the valley that opens beneath you, on the other the rocks that, useless to deny it, have a somewhat threatening atmosphere. Once you have nourished your spirit, if you want to have something proper to eat, do not worry: in Garfagnana there are plenty of places where to taste some delicious delicacies. What are they? In the right season, chestnuts, mushrooms, honey, spelt and the famous ‘Biroldo della Garfagnana’, tasty sausages of pork.

Whether you have chosen Garfagnana, Lucca or Versilia as the destination for your trip, we suggest you visit Hermitage of Calomini. It will be a pleasant and relaxing escape from the stress and chaos that, unfortunately, permeates the lives of all of us. Lucky you if it is not your case. We are sure, however, that most will not reject the idea of ​​spending a few hours in a place where silence and peace reign sovereign. Make sure there are no phones ringing or Whatsapp messages arriving! Have a look around, look up to the sky, the valley and the rocks but take a break from your electronic gadgets... The hermits of Eremo di Calomini didn’t have a smartphone, yet they lived here in all serenity, happy as a clam. Just for a while, try to immerse yourselves totally, it might turn out to be a truly liberating experience. Perhaps, gripped by a mystic impetus, you might even throw your phone down the cliff! I’m exaggerating, aren’t I….? Well, anyway, it is worth giving it a try.