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. Amiata is characterized by a luxuriant nature, with large beech, fir and chestnut woods, which is protected through some protected areas such as that of the Riserva Naturale del Pigelleto.
Places to visit on the Mount Amiata
- Abbadia San Salvatore
- Santa Fiora
- Castel del Piano
- The peak of Amiata
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.
Castell’Azzara is located in the south-eastern area of Monte Amiata at the foot of Monte Civitella. According to local tradition, the name is linked to zara, a game of dice very well known during the Middle Ages (Dante also mentions it in the Divine Comedy), through which two brothers of the Aldobrandeschi family would have played for possession of the castle. In fact, if we look at the coat of arms of Castell’Azzara we can see 3 dice that are depicted above the towers of a castle. The village well preserves the typical intertwining of irregular streets that characterizes many medieval centers and various monuments such as the Rocca and the Chiesa di San Nicola. In the surroundings, the Rocca Silvana and the Villa Sforzesca are also worth a visit.
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.
In the municipal area of Arcidosso, there is another medieval village of great interest called Montelaterone. Here is one of the most interesting castles in the area, the Cassero di Montelaterone also known as the “Roccaccia”, which although in a state of ruin is preserved quite well with a tower and other elements still standing. Also worth seeing are the Palazzo Pretorio, the Chiesa di San Clemente and the Pieve di Santa Maria a Lamula which was one of the most important religious centers in the area between the 9th and 11th centuries.
Castel del Piano
Let’s stay on the western side of Monte Amiata, in the province of Grosseto, to talk about Castel del Piano, another valuable village of medieval origin. The center rises at an altitude of 637 meters and is appreciated for “the beauty of the place, for the convenience of the position and for the amenity of the country” as underlined by Pope Pius II in his Commentaries. Castel del Piano is full of interesting monuments such as the baroque Chiesa della Natività di Maria, full of art works by Giuseppe Nicola Nasini, the historic Chiesa di San Leonardo, already mentioned in the 12th century, the Clock Tower, the Chiesa del Santissimo Sacramento, also called “chiesa piccina” (the small church), and many historic buildings. Finally, do not miss the art museum housed in Palazzo Nerucci.
Seggiano is a small town located in the northernmost area of the Amiata on the border with the Val d’Orcia. The town is located in a beautiful hilly position in the center of an area known for the cultivation of the olive tree, in particular of the variety called olivastra seggianese. The history of Seggiano has its roots in the Middle Ages when it was first part of the possessions of the Abbey of San Salvatore and then of the Republic of Siena. The main points of interest are the Sanctuary of the Santuario della Madonna della Carità, the Chiesa di San Bartolomeo, the medieval walls and the Castello di Potentino which is located a few kilometers from the town.
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.
Things do on Monte Amiata
Monte Amiata is the perfect destination for a holiday dedicated to nature and outdoor sports. In winter the mountain is covered with snow and skiers can take advantage of its ski slopes, its ski lifts (chairlifts and ski lifts) and the mountain huts. Summer and spring, on the other hand, are the ideal seasons to visit the Riserva Naturale del Pigelleto and to go on excursions and many activities immersed in the green of nature. The more “reckless” can also try their hand at IndianaPark Amiata, an adventure park with various routes also suitable for children and with the Bike Park to whiz around on a mountain bike in the middle of the beech forest of Monte Amiata.