Mount Amiata, a large extinct volcano
Mount Amiata is a large extinct volcano located in southern Tuscany between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto. High 1,738 meters above sea level and visible from a great distance, the volcano was active during the Pleistocene, in a period between 400,000 and 200,000 years ago. Today the mountain has become an important tourist destination that in winter attracts ski lovers, while in summer it welcomes many visitors to its many holiday centers.
All the main centers of the Amiata have arisen during the Middle Ages, at that time most of the area was under the control of the powerful feudal family of the Aldobrandeschi and it is not infrequent to find their fortresses in the center of the Amiata villages; also the Abbey of San Salvatore, around which the homonymous center developed, was very powerful in this area.
The main centers of the Amiata area are: Abbadia San Salvatore, Piancastagnaio, Arcidosso, Castel del Piano and Santa Fiora; each of these hamlets preserves an interesting historical and artistic heritage and can also be used as a base for naturalistic excursions on the mountain. The Amiata is characterized by a luxuriant nature that is preserved through some protected nature reserves.
Places to visit on the Mount Amiata
- Abbadia San Salvatore
- Santa Fiora
- The peak
Abbadia San Salvatore
Abbadia San Salvatore is located on the eastern side of Mount Amiata. The history of the village is closely linked to that of the Abbey of San Salvatore, one of the most important in southern Tuscany. Here, you should visit both the abbey museum and the church with the crypt, a very charming environment characterized by many variously decorated columns.
With its mines, Mount Amiata has been one of the world’s major centers for the production of mercury; today that mercury is no longer produced and these mines are closed. In Abbadia San Salvatore you can learn more about this thanks to its Parco museo minerario where, among other things, you can visit a gallery with a lot of wagons for transport.
Move just few kilometers to the south to reach the second and last Amiata municipality of the province of Siena: Piancastagnaio. Here we find the first of the fortresses of the Aldobrandeschi, which stands with its two towers to defend the village and one of the city gates. The village has inside some prestigious buildings such as that of the Bourbon del Monte palace and some places of worship that preserve several works of art.
Santa Fiora is a delightful medieval village once dominated by an Aldobrandeschi castle. To find some evidence of this fortress, it is necessary to get to the terziere di Castello (the castle district) where you can still admire two towers related to the ancient castle. Nearby, the Sforza palace is the home of the Museo delle Miniere di Mercurio del Monte Amiata. Crossing the old town you can reach the district of Montecatino where you can admire a truly fascinating monument: the Peschiera di Santa Fiora.
Once again we are talking about an Aldobrandesca fortress, this time it is the one that rises at the top of Arcidosso. It is a very ancient fortress, built starting from the ninth century and expanded several times during the Middle Ages. Among the various things to see in Arcidosso, we point out the unexpected Museo di Arte e Cultura Orientale, entirely dedicated to art and to the culture of Tibet and central Asia.
Monte Amiata’s peak
Now you just have to reach the peak of Mount Amiata. The summit of this ancient volcano is easily reachable as you can get very close with the car and nearby there are also hotels and restaurants. From the top, signalized by a monumental cross 22 meters meters high, you can enjoy a vast 360° panorama, favored by the absence of other large reliefs nearby.
Another interesting village to visit near Monte Amiata is Roccalbegna. Located on the slopes of Mount Labbro, Roccalbegna is characterized by a particular position enclosed between two high cliffs dominated by two fortresses: the Rocca Aldobrandesca and the Cassero Senese. Excellent panoramic points, these two castles make clear the strategic importance of this place. Inside the village it is worth visiting the chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo, while in the neighborhood you can see the Castle of Triana.