Badia Prataglia

Weather station among the most peculiar of the National Park of the Casentinese forests, Falterona mountain and Campigna and also a starting point to the visit of the part of Casentino close to Romagna, Badia Prataglia established itself during the 1900s as a holiday destination and base for hiking enthusiasts. The hamlet, presently included in the municipality of Poppi, developed at the beginning of the 11th century around the abbey of Our Lady of Assumption and st. Benedetto (abbazia di Santa Maria Assunta e san Benedetto), a Benedictine monastery born in 986. This monastery was founded by monks from Montecassino, encouraged by Elemperto, the bishop of Arezzo, who consecrated the finished monastery and church in 1008. Until the half of the 12th century, the abbey increased its sphere of influence and its properties after some major donations, in particular coming from the bishops of Arezzo. The expansion led to the conflict with the monastery of Camaldoli, which slowly had the upper hand and, between 1157 and 1183, the monks of Badia Prataglia had to follow the Camaldolese rule. In 1314 the church was restored but the coenobium survived only until 1391, when Pope Boniface IX suppressed it. Luckily, the church of Our Lady of the Assumption and st. Benedetto survived and still is in the centre of the town. The building is what is left of the monastery and still has its mediaeval marks such as the semi round apsis and the crypt with three aisles and two bays, round arcs, cross vaults and with some vegetal elements on the capitals of the columns. Inside the crypt there is also a peculiar humanoid statue, with its arms in the air. The works of 1630 that were done, left the two lateral altars and the baptismal font. After the restoration of 1930, the bell tower was built. Other than the main residential area, Badia Prataglia is composed of different smaller hamlets, called “castelletti” (meaning small castles), scattered among chestnut and spruce forests, connected via paths. In the locality La Casina, along the road that connects Corezzo and Rimbocchi, both part of the municipality of Chiusi della Verna, there is La Grotta, a chapel dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes (Madonna di Lourdes), requested by priest Lorenzo Mondanelli as a symbol of gratitude for the protection by Mary, mother of Jesus, during his mission in Chile.
The Forest Museum “Carlo Siemoni” is dedicated to Karl Siemon (italianised as Carlo Siemoni), a forest engineer from Bohemia and an expert in sylviculture and botany, who was called as the administrator of the Casentinese forests in 1837 by the Grand Duke Leopold II. Inside the museum there are the blow ups of the flora and fauna of the Apennines. Next to the building of the museum, there is the Arboretum, the most ancient in Italy, implemented during the 1800s by Siemoni, who had the arduous task of fixing the situation of the forests, ruined by the indiscriminate cutting made by Camaldolese monks and the settlers that, without any authorisation, turned portions of the forest into arable land. Siemoni was helped by another forest engineer from Bohemia, Antonio Seeland, and later by his sons Edoardo and Carlo, who became the administrators of this portion of land after the death of their father. The project of the restoration of the forests in the Casentino valley, of which the Arboretum was the central point, was a part of a series of innovative interventions in the management of the environmental heritage, but was also the experimentation and the acclimatisation of exotic species that could give an increased return in wood, in quality and quantity, in the event of their introduction inside the forest. The Arboretum is about 3 ha wide and hosts around 139 tree species, among which there also are the giant sequoias from North America.