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Grosseto and Maremma Box: Monastero di Siloe

After a couple of detours from the main road, we pass a small group of houses and find a dirt road. We follow it until the gate of the Monastery of Siloe materializes. It is a modern structure, unusual for a place of worship, characterized by glass windows that illuminate it with the rays of the sun, making it anything but austere. To welcome us we find Brother Flavio, one of the monks of this Benedictine community, who answers all our curiosities about the realization of this building, totally immersed in the nature of the Ombrone valley. In 1997 the first part of the work was carried out, accompanied by the development of systems in line with eco-sustainability. In fact, the monastery is equipped with photovoltaic panels for lighting, while the heating of the water is done through the combustion of the olive kernel, very present in this area because of the numerous olive groves. One of the aims of this project was to create a farm, which was born with the idea of respecting the environment and going to recover, as Brother Flavio wants to specify, some crops abandoned or lost altogether, because of the constant migration from the countryside to the city.

One of the pillars of the monastery is the cultivation of chili peppers and its many varieties. From the wonderful view of the valley, which invites us to contemplate the landscape and enjoy the sound of nature, our gaze rests on the peperonaia. We reach the entrance of the enclosure, which houses the various plants of chili peppers, a couple of which stand out over two meters in height: the show of colors is impressive. They range from the classic flaming red to light green, from yellow to bottle green. A combination of various hot peppers, first ground and then chopped, is the product which is called “The colors of Siloe”. Why Siloe? In the Old Testament it is mentioned the pool of Siloe which, thanks to a channel dug in the rock by king Hezekiah, ensured the supply of water to Jerusalem even during the sieges. This water was therefore believed to be the sign of divine protection over the city. The case wanted that the monastic community moved to Maremma thanks to a donation of a farm called “Le Pescine” for the presence of a water source. The latter, through the irrigation system, is the main nutrient of chili pepper plants, which once hand-picked is dried in the laboratory, before grinding and chopping. Frate Flavio is clear: “it is really an excellent product for seasoning and it can also be used in good quantities, as in this combination a less strong hot pepper compensates another hotter one”. So… all that remains is to taste!