Outside Rome, a tranquil abbey turns eucalyptus into liqueur.
In 1868, Trappist monks moved into Rome’s abandoned Tre Fontane Abbey and planted 125,000 eucalyptus trees to revive the swampy, malaria-infested property. The trees thrived, the disease disappeared, and a distillery was created to make a liqueur known as Eucalittino.
One hundred and fifty years later, the tradition of making this dark, aromatic drink continues. Monks hand-crush eucalyptus leaves, then mix them with grain alcohol and sugar. After a few weeks of infusion, the leaves are removed from the mix and what’s left is an intense, sweet, minty digestivo, best enjoyed over ice or straight. In other words, the perfect end to a big Italian dinner.
The Tre Fontane Abbey is on a sacred site where Saint Paul was martyred in 67 A.D. According to the story, the saint’s severed head bounced three times on the ground, miraculously creating three fountains (tre fontane in Italian). A monastery was established in the seventh century, followed by two more churches.
The holy complex, a 20-minute drive from Rome’s historic center, is open to visitors, offering a tranquil break from the crowds of the Eternal City. Amidst the churches, gardens, fruit orchards, and eucalyptus trees, white-robed monks go about their “pray and work” duties. Some can be found in the abbey shop, selling the goodies they’ve made—including chocolate bars, honey, beer, and Eucalittino.