Santa Fiora

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Right there, clinging to the trachyte rock, on the slopes of Monte Amiata and TCI Orange Flag, it is the easternmost point of the province of Grosseto. Whilst history would have wanted this village of Tuscany to be friendly to or dominated by Siena, it instead came to dominate the surrounding area. At almost 700 meters above sea level the Municipality of Santa Fiora towers over the Fiora River valley, for this reason it perhaps remained a free county until the second half of the 17th  century. How to see Santa Fiora?

Its name appears in documents dated 833 A.D., then again in 890 A.D. there are references to Terra Sancte Flora, then in 1084 it is elevated to the rank of Villa and it is said it contained one hundred farms, and in 1141 St Flora Castle is mentioned for the first time. Santa Fiora is a town founded and raised right on the fortunes of its castle, even today it is divided into terzieri: over the centuries it has collected great lineage, from the Aldobrandeschi to the Sforza, then a history of swashbuckling and then the mercury mines that have gone through the 19th and 20th centuries, then tourism in the present day and the music.

 

SANTA FIORA AND MUSIC are a combination to cross carefully. Let's start from the music because the event 'Santa Fiora in Musica' is a very important Grosseto event. Started at the beginning of the second millennium, the International Music Festival of this village has musical instruments as protagonists. The festival begins in mid-July and runs straight to the end of August with more than twenty events that take place in turn in the various squares of the village or the Auditorium of Peschiera. This jumble of musical encounters marked by the participation of high-level professionals alternates jazz evenings with Baroque concerts, quartets or fusion concerts for solo violin and piano, Mozart and Street Band, Schumann and ethnic, poly-instrumental performances, vocalist and also music bands of the highest level. Almost all concerts have free admission.
The program of the Festival of Santa Fiora is very rich and features a Masterclasses section that makes Santa Fiora in Tuscany a gathering place for musicians. At this time in the municipality of Santa Fiora in Grosseto first level courses devoted to singing or to specific instruments are held: brass and percussion, violin, harp and others. Every year has its music and its means of expression.
If you like music, this summer, just pop in Santa Fiora Italy: events are certainly not lacking!

 

THE HISTORY OF SANTA FIORA Italy (Grosseto) starts with the Aldobrandeschi family who, determined to counteract the power of the Abbey of San Salvatore, turn the Castle into the most powerful one in the area. Ildebrando Settimo Novello of the Aldobrandeschis, Lord of Santa Fiora, received from Frederick Barbarossa in 1164 the power to print money in the name of the castle. The rivalry with San Salvatore earned the Aldobrandeschis of Santa Fiora a quote from Dante Alighieri, who finds one of its inhabitants to welcome him at the gates of Purgatory.

The first alliance of Tuscany Santa Fiora with Siena against Guelph Florence took place in 1251 until when, a little more than fifteen years later, the centre of the famous Palio turns its back to the town of Mount Amiata starting a rivalry that soon culminated - we are in 1300- with a large pitched battle where Santa Fiora heavily defeated Siena. The rivalry then continued with scuffles, skirmishes and fake accords for almost two more centuries. In 1439 a lack of direct male line and the link between the last lady of the town, Cecilia Aldobrandeschi and Bosio I Sforza, niece of the famous Lord of Milan, brings the Lombard family to dispose of its power over Tuscany Santa Fiora and to pass it to another noble family. The 16th  century is the period of great splendour for the Sforza in Santa Fiora in Tuscany then, in 1632, the Sforza family sold it for about 460,000 shields to Ferdinand II de Medici. An 'interesting' marriage in 1674 binds the Sforza of Santa Fiora with the noble Cesarini family from Rome : the family becomes Sforza-Cesarini and in1678 they abandon Santa Fiora in Tuscany to live in Rome. The history of power and splendour of Santa Fiora ends at this point. At first, the village is an interesting but not the most central town of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany but then, with the unification of Italy, one of the new treasures that will trace the history of Tuscany Santa Fiora for a century is discovered: the mercury mines of Monte Amiata.
Santa Fiora Maremma Tuscany has dedicated to its history of mining activities a nice museum in the central Piazza Garibaldi, right beside the Town Hall: the Museum of Mercury Mines of Monte Amiata (known as Parco Amiata).

The rich deposits of cinnabar of the Monte Amiata area, made this medieval village a mining centre of strategic importance. From the cinnabar ore, also called mercury sulfide, in fact mercury is extracted whose many uses were being discovered between the late 19th and early 20th century: in pharmacy and medicine, for precision instruments as well as for the war industry. The Mercury Mining Museum of Monte Amiata wants to bear witness to the history of mining and especially the great sacrifice of the miners because, as Ernesto Balducci (1922 - 1992), a fine writer and intellectual of the twentieth century, a native of Santa Fiora, wrote 'in that little world of suffering and injustice a light of humanity shone that is perhaps what we need to build the future'. The museum is very interesting: tools, methods and digging paths, objects, information on the mining locations scattered in the territory of Parco Amiata but, above all, one can still feel the pulse of these lands, the toils and dangers, the faces of people and families from these mines from which they drew the strength to grow together.

 

SANTA FIORA: THE TOWN IS DIVIDED IN THE ANCIENT' TERZIERI ': Castello, Borgo, Montecatino, what to see in Santa Fiora follow their path. Let's see these three scenic areas: arriving in the town from the northeast leads you directly from Via Roma in to the beautiful Piazza Garibaldi.

  • Castle Terziere. It is the oldest area, the centre of the Aldobrandeschi world and of the Sforza’s domain. In the square, the towers of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Praetorian Palace and the adjacent Palazzo Sforza-Cesarini, an impressive building from 1575, built where the Aldobrandeschi fortress originally stood, the seat of power of the County of Santa Fiora. Continuing straight pass the Scalette del Diaccetto takes you to Via della Ripa, a picturesque and panoramic renaissance place: after walking round it go back, turn right and take Via Carolina, the only street that crosses all the terzieri. On this tour you will find the Church of Suffrage - beginning of its construction in 1716 - then, on the left after a short passage, two beautiful and picturesque squares of the Castle Terziere: the Elm Square, the center of administration of justice in previous eras, and Piazza San Michele with the statue of the Saint (17th century) decked with drawn sword. Continue towards Via delle Mura takes you away a bit from the centre of the town but the view from the balcony that can be enjoyed from a small widening of this corner of Santa Fiora is really lovely. Returning to Via Carolina you arrive at the Church of Saints Flora and Lucilla, the most important monument of Santa Fiora dating back to 1142, which was extended and modified over the centuries: in the fifteenth, there was the addition of the Sforza Chapel, then in 1792 the side aisles were added and, inside, the terracotta of Andrea della Robbia made between 1464 and 1490. Do not miss it. 
  • The descent along Via Carolina leads to the Terziere of Borgo, accessed through the medieval Porticciola gate. At the end of a beautiful paved road is the 18th century Church of Santa Chiara. To the south, right at the end of the village along Via Lunga is the closed square dedicated to the 'Ghetto'. Even though the traces of Jewish presence have practically disappeared, entering it through small openings and narrow lanes in Santa Fiora is rather charming! It is worth it because as always, even here in the Ghetto, you will be able to enjoy a breath-taking view point over the valley. At the bottom of the Borgo Terziere is the Church of St. Augustine: built in 1309 it contains works from the 13th century, above all a big wooden crucifix and the bell tower, from the 14th century, which saw its last renovation in 1681. 
  • Enter through St. Michael's Gate and you are in the Terziere of Montecatino, where you can finally satisfy your curiosity on that large pool of water that you admired from the observation points of your walk: you are at the Peschiera of Santa Fiora. This impressive and extensive body of water lined by walls with a nice and huge final collection fountain gathers the water of the source of the River Fiora; it was built in the era of the Aldobrandeschi and under the Sforza it served as trout farming tank. The Sforza-Cesarini counts restored and strengthened it in 1851, since then it is the characteristic trait of Santa Fiora, and seeing it gives you a strange feeling... Leaning against the Peschiera, the seventeenth-century Church of Our Lady of the Snows: sitting on the bench in front of the church, look up and the Castle Teziere is up there, leaning against the rock ridge... what a view! Santa Fiora is beautiful.

In Santa Fiora people have many things to be extremely proud of in addition to those mentioned above: the 'brown Amiata IGP Chestnut' and its festival in November, the DOP olive oil and the variety of mushroom that fans of the genre can gather in the woods. In this regard it is worth mentioning the Amiata mushroom Festival in October amongst the many Santa Fiora events.
Map in hand I will see you there on the bridge of Via Roma: we will walk down together!