Vallombrosa is a Benedictine abbey in the comune of Reggello (Tuscany, Italy), about 30 km south-east of Florence, in the Apennines, surrounded by forests of beech and firs. It was founded by Giovanni Gualberto, a Florentine noble, in 1038 and became the mother house of the Vallumbrosan Order. It was extended around 1450, reaching its current aspect at the end of the 15th century. In 1529, after the looting of Charles V, the east tower was built, in the 17th century followed the wall and in the 18th century the fishing ponds. Today, the monastery is open for tourists and is selling local produce.
Largely because of his poetic reference to the 'autumnal leaves that strow the brooks, in Vallombrosa' in Paradise Lost, John Milton is supposed to have visited the monastery and, according to a plaque erected during the Fascist era, actually stayed there. Though this is unlikely, the notion that he did so encouraged many later travelers to visit the place, including William Beckford, J.R. Cozens, William Wordsworth, Crabb Robinson, Frances Trollope, Mary Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, and Friederich Nietzsche. The Anglo-Italian monk, Enrico Hugford, became Abbot of Vallombrosa in 1743 and fellow Catholic, John Talman, seems to have visited even earlier. Derek Walcott also mentions Vallombrosa in chapter 33 section 2 of his Omeros. Derek Walcott has allusions to several historical moments and other literary works throughout the Omeros, and Shmoop suggests that this reference was inspired by John Milton. Partly thanks to the influence of the pioneering American ecologist and author of the 1864 Man and Nature, George Perkins Marsh, the Istituto Superiore Forestale Nazionale was founded in the secularized monastery in 1867.