A very dear, but absent-minded friend called the other day to ask if I would accompany him to Padula, a small town pressed into the Apennine mountains between Naples and Salerno where he had left his watch at a local B&B. Thank heavens, because otherwise I would probably have never visited the Vallo di Diano.
Located here is the magnificent Charterhouse of S. Lorenzo, better known as La Certosa di Padula. It is one of the biggest and most extraordinary ecclesiastical buildings in Europe, yet one of the least-visited in Italy. It is immense; the building and grounds cover an area of over 250,000 sq. meters!
Founded by Tommaso Sanseverino in 1306, it was most likely built for strategic and political reasons: through feudal organization, the Charterhouse allowed this French order to maintain a strong influence over the entire area. Apart from the lay brothers, the monks, or Certosini, had no contact with the outside world and visitors were not welcome. An exception was made when King Charles the V stayed there in 1535, on his return to Naples from Reggio Calabria. Legend says that the monks prepared an omelette for the emperor and his retinue made with 1000 egg.
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