The first monasteries were established as colonies of the Roman church at first  in the wild solitude of the Simbruini and Ernici mountains in the Latium Apennines and then spread throughout Italy, Sicily, Germany, France and even Britain. These  mountains are rich in limestone caves which once may have served as a refuge to the hermits.
Ferdinand Gregorovius, a German historian and medievalist famous for his studies about Medieval Rome, describes his grand-tour, pilgrimage journey to Italy:
“Back in 1838 a hermit lived in a cave near Mount Avicenna in Collepardo, who was visited by Stephen Gautier, a young Frenchman who, following a  heavenly inspiration, wanted to become a hermit. He  settled in the cave where he prayed and wore the cilice, visited the churches in   Collepardo and  Veroli and the Certosa of Trisulti, and conversed with the monks. His conduct was above reproach, and although still very young, he was already considered a saint. After spending two years in the cave, one day Gautier was arrested. No one knew the cause nor his destiny, it was rumored that he had been delivered into the hands of the French justice for taking part in an assassination attempt to Luigi Filippo.”