Keeping to the right we cycle straight into the bucolic Parco della Vettabbia which was named after the canal that originally crisscrossed it, the previously navigable Naviglio Vettabbia.
Historically, the grassland area was reclaimed and cultivated by the monks of the Abbey of Clairvaux, founded by S. Bernard of Clairvaux in 1135. Hence, the entrance part of park area is called the Valle dei Monaci (Valley of the Monks). For centuries, the nutrient-rich waters of the Vettabbia river were used for irrigation and, more specifically, for the controlled flooding of water-meadows which, in addition to guaranteeing increased agricultural productivity, constituted an efficient natural filtration system, maintaining the balance in the urban and agricultural systems.
We pedal along a tree-lined avenue in the middle of the verdant park until we reach Cascina San Bernardo, a training farmstead that aims to educate children and young people on the principles of agricultural life through the creation of a lovely ‘garden of ancient fruits’ with over 300 trees of varieties that are no longer used in current agricultural production. To book a visit to the Parco della Vettabbia please send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Leaving the park behind us, we continue for a few metres of non-cyclable road to reach the Abbey of Chiaravalle and the adjacent village of Chiaravalle. If you wish to book a guided tour please go to the monastery website.
The ‘Bottega dei Monaci’, monastery store, open from Tuesday to Sunday, sells products from the Abbey of Chiaravalle and other Cistercian abbeys: wines and beers, fresh eggs, chickens, flavoursome rabbits, Grana Padano and local salami along with seasonal fruits and vegetables from the abbey kitchen garden, plus, natural perfumes, soaps and cosmetics with gift boxes on request. Numerous books, CDs and religious artefacts for all ages are also on sale.