Monte Amiata


If you love elegance, wild nightlife and shopping in crowded malls, a holiday on Mount Amiata is most presumably not for you! Life here is still as quiet as it was in the past, the pace of daily routine is slow, people take their time to get things done! So what is there to do on Mount Amiata? Stroll through the beautiful medieval towns and castles, hike to the tops of the mountains, stop to buy this and that in craft shops that still lie along the narrow village roads, have a very 'slow' lunch to enjoy in peace and quiet all the flavours of this land. This is what Mount Amiata offers above all: a marvellous nature to admire in all seasons. The summer in Monte Amiata is just as spectacular as the winter: skiing is an excellent sport that can only be practiced in winter! Then there are the villages where you can still feel the magic of history, the Monte Amiata terme spas to have a few moments of relaxation and a vast choice of genuine food to relish.

BREATHTAKING VIEWS! Mount Amiata is located in the southernmost part of Tuscany, between Siena and Grosseto, surrounded by Maremma, Val d'Orcia and Val di Chiana. As it is an isolated mountain range, the views that extend from its peaks and its villages are truly unforgettable! On a clear day you can see Gran Sasso, Terminillo and the Sibillini as well as the tips of the Apennines ... and if you're really lucky, you'll even see as far as Corsica! At night the show turns into magic and some people swear to see, in the distance, the glittering lights of Rome. The various points of interest of Monte Amiata, all in all, are pretty easy to reach: for the east side take the motorway exits of Chiusi-Chianciano and Orvieto, while for the west side, coming from Grosseto or Siena, we recommend you exit in Paganico: from here, going along provincial roads, simply follow the directions to your destination.
Mount Amiata’s strategic location at the centre of the Italian peninsula make it a convenient point to reach Siena (67 km), Grosseto (55 km), Florence (144 km) or even Rome (195 km) ... always bearing in mind that we are talking of mountain roads!

A VOLCANO IN TUSCANY. Yes, Monte Amiata is a volcano - or rather, it was, given that the last eruption dates back to about 700,000 years ago! Its geological origin explains its peculiar shape, a single summit located in a predominantly flat area. The many hot springs scattered in the area are witnesses of the volcanic activity which now only remains in the bottom of the earth. Where are the Monte Amiata spas? At Bagni San Filippo for example!
The vegetation on Mount Amiata is particularly luxuriant: shady forests of beech trees, chestnut trees and ferns. Down in the valley, the slopes are covered with vineyards and olive groves that produce excellent wines and precious Monte Amiata olive oil.

HISTORY. Monte Amiata history begins from the 'Grotta dell'Arciere', a cave located in the town of Abbadia San Salvatore, where a man is depicted who seems to be holding a bow: this drawing on the rock is evidence of the presence of man in this area in a very distant past. Naturally, there is far more evidence of the presence of Etruscans and Romans in the area. Even the two interpretations of the name Monte Amiata refer to the two civilizations: some argue the name comes from 'Mons Tuniatus’, which later became' Montuniata' and stems from the name of ‘Tinia’, an Etruscan god. Others however affirm it derives from the Latin 'ad meata' which translates as ‘by the springs’. During the first years after the birth of Christ, settlements mainly concentrated in the lower parts of the area. Later, with the arrival of the Lombards and feudalism the beginning of massive fortification work began: the construction of fortifications in elevated areas in order to protect populations from external incursions. These castles, many of which can be found on Mount Amiata, enclosed the entire village within its walls. Further on, two powers will face each other: on one hand the Longobard Aldobrandeschi family, on the other religious power identified with the Cistercian Abbey of San Salvatore. Starting from the 1300s, Amiata will firstly follow the fortunes of the Republic of Siena and subsequently those of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

MONTE AMIATA VILLAGES. To tell the truth, they are all worth a visit, since each has its own fascinating peculiarity: in Pescina, for example, a small town near Seggiano, there is the Giardino di Daniel Spoerri, a garden full of modern art installations; Castiglione d'Orcia contains the Rocca di Tentennano and nearby Bagni San Filippo, the Monte Amiata baths; Rocchette di Fazio is an enchanting village that looks like one of Tolkien’s literary creations! But there are some villages with a particularly large number of things to see. I’ll give you a few ideas and leave you to find out more… The last of my intentions is depriving you of the thrill of exploring!

ARCIDOSSO is a village with a truly mystical quality! As a matter of fact, this is precisely where David Lazzeretti lived and founded his community at the end of the 19th century. He claimed to be a prophet, so much that he was given the appellative ‘the Christ of Amiata’.
Monte Labbro is the location of the Giurisdavidica Tower, a small church and the hermitage that the ‘prophet' commissioned. Also in Arcidosso on Mount Amiata a Tibetan community has been founde, 'Merigar West', as evidenced by the presence of the 'Gompa' (the Great Temple) and the 'Stupa' (the shrine). What else can you see in Arcidosso? Surely the old part with the Aldobrandesco Castle built around the year 1000, but also the Church of the Madonna delle Grazie, otherwise known as Chiesa dell’Incoronata and, just before entering the village, the Medieval Church of St. Nicholas. In Montelaterone you can find the 'The Temple of the Madonna of Lamulas’, the oldest monument of the whole of Amiata. Inside the nature reserve ‘Riserva Naturale Monte Labbro’ do not forget to visit Monte Amiata Fauna Park. Arcidosso has a tourist centre where you can get information on the most suitable Monte Amiata itineraries for your needs.

CASTEL DEL PIANO is surrounded by a circle of woods where you can go on pleasant walks. With just a short walk you can reach the meadows Delle Macinaie, della Contessa and alla Vetta dell’Amiata. It is also the land of the Nasini, a lineage of artists whose works of art are scattered around the area of Mount Amiata. Many of these can be viewed in the Chiesa dell’Opera and in the adjacent Church of the Madonna delle Grazie. To reach the historic part of the town, still well preserved, you will find the Clock Tower, the fountain and after Piazzetta degli Ortaggi, the church of San Leonardo. 'Palio di Santa Maria' is an unmissable event that takes place in September: a contest between the village’s four districts.

ABBADIA SAN SALVATORE (Siena). The homonymous abbey, founded in 750 by the Longobard King Rachtis, is undoubtedly one of the symbols of Il Monte Amiata. In a strategic location along the Via Francigena, this was originally a Benedictine abbey, which later turned Cistercian... a must-visit, to jump back into the age of Templar Knights. You will be mostly intrigued by the silent crypt supported by a range of columns in different styles. The historic part of this charming village, with its five gates and two towers will also magically take you back in time. From the end of the 1800s onwards Abbadia S. Salvatore was affected by the mines in Cinabro which extracted extract lead up until the 1970s. A visit to the Mining Museum which is located in the Clock Tower and a fascinating walk or train journey through the mine gallery could also be of interest. During the Christmas season, the traditional lighting of wooden pyres takes place at Abbadia San Salvatore in Monte Amiata and 'Abbadia the town of Fiaccole’ marks the beginning of a series of events, markets and shows.

ROCCALBEGNA. This village is erected on a rocky spur and its essence is encapsulated in the inhabitants’ uttermost respect for Mother Nature – rather more a faith in relation to her benevolent force. Two fortresses face each other: La Rocca Aldobrandesca and Cassero Senese. In winter, namely on November 24th, you can attend an ancient rite, 'the Focarazza': a piece of wood wrapped in bundles, called the ‘Stollo', is burnt after a series of blessings. While it burns, exponents of the various districts try to steal it and bring it to their neighbourhood in sign of victory.

CASTELL'AZZARA. This village is also erected on a rocky spur. A famous legend has it that the castle was won at a game of dice by Bonifacio degli Aldobrandeschi, as Dante narrates in his Divine Comedy. In the vicinity of the village, quite literally surrounded by the fields, Villa 'Sforzesca' di Castel d’Azzarra pokes out, a Renaissance-Baroque villa built for Cardinal Alessandro Sforza.

PIANCASTAGNAIO: A field of chestnut trees, that's what the village originally was. Fortunately, although the most modern part of the village has been expanded, the chestnut woods are still here! The Aldobrandesco Castle, dating back to the twelfth century, a witness of the rich history this village carries, now houses a museum and events of various kinds. The other historic building you can notice, particularly for its size, is the Palazzo Bourbon del Monte built by one of the most important Tuscan families of the Middle Ages. If you can, visit the village on November 1st and the following weekend during 'Crastatone', one of the most ancient chestnut festivals. Another special period to visit Piancastagnaio is certainly during the 'Palio delle contrade’, held on August 16th, a rich parade of dames, knights and tambourines.

SANTA FIORA, seat of the Aldobrandeschi county, is one of the most beautiful and renowned places in Amiata. Visit its districts: the one with the Castle, the village centre and the one of Montecanino. For a moment of relaxation go for a walk in the ‘peschiera’ park, still used for goat breeding. A pleasant itinerary starts from here, goes up the mountain and leads to the Fiora springs. An excellent opportunity to visit this village is the 'International Music Festival' which takes place from July 20th to the end of August: outdoor concerts, exhibitions, masters. An immersion in music surrounded by a beautiful scenery.

These villages can be visited in all seasons but for certain activities it is best to choose the right time of the year! We are in the mountains, therefore it is important to take the weather into consideration. Monte Amiata trekking and excursions can be practiced from spring to early autumn: look up information on Monte Amiata trekking routes because the choice is vast and they are all of different levels of difficulty. Even if you are not experienced climbers, you can reach the tip of Mount Amiata, take a classic 'selfie' and show off a bit... you can actually reach it by car from Abbadia San Salvatore, only a small part has to be walked! Once there you will see the imposing iron cross and the Virgin Mary of the Scouts. I highly recommend taking a break to taste a delicious sandwich with grilled sausage! You just cannot back out on this ritual, can you? And if you like the snow, Mount Amiata will not disappoint you: there is a Monte Amiata ski resort with 12 slopes including the ‘Crocicchio’ and the ‘panoramica’, two chairlifts and six ski lifts! From the Rifugio del Cantore a fantastic journey of cross-country skiing begins, which can also be completed with snowshoes. There are thousands of ways to enjoy the Monte Amiata snow, to have fun, to have an unfogettable holiday or even just to have an incredible weekend!

And since we are in Tuscany... we can forget about diets, can’t we? Fortunately, gone are the days when people here only used to eat polenta, chesnuts and drink water! There are lots of delicious wines to taste, of the truly refined sort, so much so that this area has its own wine and food trail: ‘la strada del Vino Montecucco e dei sapori dell’Amiata’, an itinerary that will make you lick your lips: Montecucco DOC wine, pecorino Toscano DOC cheese, chesnut tree honey, extra virgin olive oil from Seggiano and, straight from the woods, Monte Amiata mushrooms and chesnuts! How to resist all this? It is easy, follow Oscar Wilde’s advice… Do not resist, go to Mount Amiata and relish it all!

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