In the heart of the Province of Macerata, there is Fiastra Abbey, one of the best preserved Cistercian monasteries in Italy. Territorially divided between the towns of Tolentino and Urbisaglia, the Fiastra Abbey houses an abbey, as well as about 1,800 hectares of land that, since 1984, have been placed under protective bond with the establishment of the Natural Reserve of Fiastra Abbey.
The foundation of the monastery dates back to 1142, when Gualtiero II, Marquis of Ancona donated to the Cistercian order a large piece of land between the Chienti and Fiastra rivers. From the Abbey of Chiaravalle in Milan arrived 12 monks who oversaw the construction of the complex, often using recycled materials from nearby Urbisaglia. Having reclaimed the surrounding wooded area, the Fiastra Abbey acquired power and territories, expanding from Macerata to Numana, hosting about 200 monks and controlling more than 30 churches and monasteries. From the fourteenth to fifteenth century the monastery underwent a relentless decline, partly because of different misfortunes and looting. After it was ceded to the Jesuits, with the suppression of the orders (1773) it became the property of the Giustiniani Bandini family. After the death of Sigismondo Giustiniani Bandini, only 32 years old and without an heir, according to his will, it was set up a foundation in his name, with the task of administering and safeguard all the assets of the family.
Fiastra Abbey was built by French architects monks, with the Romanesque and Gothic style elements. From the cloister, following a square plan, are located the church a Latin cross with three naves and marked on the axis of the sun governed by strict Cistercian forms, the chapter room, the auditorium, the scriptorium, the refectory and the cellarium. In the nineteenth century, at the behest of Mr. Sigismondo, was added on the south side of the cloister his residence in neoclassic style.
Today, almost the entire complex can be visited and some rooms have been used for museum purposes. The room of Oil cruets houses the archaeological collection of Fiastra Abbey. The wine cellars, with access from the cloister of the abbey, home to the Wine Museum with tools and objects used for wine-making, as well as a rich documentation for the production of wine in the Marche region. Other rooms have been intended for the Museum of Rural Culture, where they were collected many agricultural tools, kitchen utensils and carpentry items that come from the houses in the neighborhood and have been re-created environments that show how was life in the country.
The Natural Reserve of Fiastra Abbey, is a very particular ecosystem, both for flora and for fauna. Among the trails on foot, by bike or on horseback, the observation points are located for birdwatching as well as can happen to see beavers. They are also available to the visitors of the great green fields, with tables and other services, ideal for a quiet picnic or relaxing afternoons immersed in nature.
Since 1985, the Cistercian community is back at the Fiastra Abbey, to live according to the Rule of St. Benedict. Eight times a day the monks gather in church for the choral singing of the “hours liturgy” and to carry out other livelihood activities, including the production of natural cosmetics, herbal teas, honey and liquor purchased from their store.