Arcidosso, a suggestive medieval hamlet on the Mount Amiata
Arcidosso in the province of Grosseto is one of the municipalities of Mount Amiata. This charming medieval village is located on the slopes of the western side of the mountain at an altitude of 679 meters above sea level. Immersed in the green of the Amiata woods made of beech and chestnut trees, Arcidosso has developed around the Rocca Aldobrandesca creating an almost pyramidal agglomeration which has its vertex in the ancient castle.
The first time that the name Arcidosso is mentioned is in a document from 860. The toponym probably derives from the union of two Latin words: “arx” (fortress) and “dossum” (hump). During the 11th century the village became part of the possessions of the powerful Aldobrandeschi family. The dominion of the Aldobrandeschi counts lasted until 1331 when the castle was besieged and conquered by the Sienese. Like other towns in the area, Arcidosso also followed the fate of the Republic of Siena and in 1559 passed under the control of Florence. During the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, Arcidosso was the administrative capital of Monte Amiata and its population reached 12,000, almost three times the current one.
What to see in Arcidosso
- Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie
- Old town
- Rocca Aldobrandesca
- Chiesa di San Niccolò
- Museo di Arte e Cultura Orientale
- Chiesa di San Leonardo
- Chiesa di Sant’Andrea
Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie
Coming from the Strada Provinciale di Arcidosso, just outside the city walls we can find the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie (also know as Madonna dell’Incoronata). Erected in 1348 after the plague, the church was remodeled several times starting from the end of the following century. Inside, there is no lack of works of interest; among these we find a banner depicting the Virgin in glory between Saints Sebastian and Rocco by Ventura Salimbeni and a Madonna and Child attributed to Pellegrino di Mariano.
The historic center of Arcidosso is divided into three districts: Castello, Codaccio and Sant’Andrea. The district of Castello represents the heart of the town, here are the Rocca degli Aldobrandeschi, the Church of San Niccolò, the Visitor Center of the Parco Faunistico e delle Riserve Naturali del Monte Amiata and the Teatro degli Unanimi which, having been founded in 1741, is the oldest theater in the province. In the Codaccio district we find the Church of San Leonardo. Finally, in the last district, that of Sant’Andrea, there is also the Church of Sant’Andrea which is located near the Porta Talassese.
The fortress of Arcidosso has a truly remote origin, it seems that its construction began during the 9th century. Throughout the Middle Ages, the fortress was the subject of numerous interventions aimed at strengthening its structures. The main tower of the castle, for example, was built around 1100. The last medieval interventions are the work of the Republic of Siena which, after numerous attempts, managed to conquer the fortress in 1331. Today the fortress, which can be fully visited, houses two museums (one on the Middle Ages and one on David Lazzaretti) and is often the scene of cultural events and various events.
Chiesa di San Niccolò
The church of San Niccolò, patron saint of Arcidosso, is located in the immediate vicinity of the castle. Built around the middle of the twelfth century, the church was enlarged during the seventeenth century to include the nearby oratory of Santa Croce. The current neo-Romanesque appearance is the result of a restoration carried out between 1934 and 1943.
Museo di Arte e Cultura Orientale
MACO – Museum of Oriental Art and Culture is located in the former chancellery building, which is part of the Rocca di Arcidosso, in Piazza del Castello. It is a museum entirely dedicated to the art and culture of Tibet and Central Asia. Designed and conceived by Professor Namkhai Norbu, the museum itinerary uses various multimedia contents that accompany the works of art, costumes, votive offerings and all the other exhibits on display.
For information on museum timetables and tickets, I recommend you visit the Musei di Maremma website.
Moving from the piazza della rocca in the direction of the Codaccio district, we pass through the Porta dell’Orologio, one of the city gates, so called because of the clock that was installed there during the nineteenth-century renovation.
Chiesa di San Leonardo
Located in the district of Codaccio, the curch of San Leonardo (12th century) houses some works such as the Francesco Vanni’s Decapitation of San Giovanni Battista and two wooden statues representing Sant’Andrea and San Processo.
Chiesa di Sant’Andrea
The Church of Sant’Andrea is located immediately outside the Porta Talassese. Probably built during the 12th century (the first document that remembers it dates back to 1188), the church has been rearranged and modified several times over the centuries. Inside it preserves an early 16th century fresco, Madonna and Child enthroned with two saints and angels, and a seventeenth-century papier-mâché crucifix located on the main altar.
What to do and what to see around Arcidosso
Amiata is a mountain full of resources for those looking for a holiday full of nature and outdoor activities. In winter you can take advantage of the ski slopes, while in summer you can take long walks taking advantage of the mountain climate and the shade of the trees. If you love nature and animals, you can visit the Parco Faunistico del Monte Amiata (Monte Amiata Wildlife Park) where various wild species such as deer and wolves and some domestic species such as the horse and the Amiata donkey live.
In the same area, on Monte Labbro, at an altitude of 1200 meters, is the hermitage of David Lazzaretti, the “Prophet of Amiata”. In the 1870s Lazzaretti founded a religious movement called Giurisdavidismo which aimed to reform Catholicism. Between 1869 and 1875 he built a series of buildings on the top of Monte Labbro, including a small church and a cylindrical tower called Torre Giurisdavidica. It is a place full of charm and mystery, furthermore from up there you can enjoy a very beautiful and wide panorama.
Still on the subject of spirituality, on the slopes of Mount Labbro there is also the Merigar West, an important Buddhist temple. The Gönpa, or “Temple of the Great Contemplation”, was inaugurated in 1990 in the presence of the Dalai Lama, and has been the center of an important Tibetan community ever since.
On the road that leads from Arcidosso to Montelaterone, there is the historic Pieve di Santa Maria a Lamula. This church is very old as it is documented since 853, when it was part of the possessions of the Abbey of San Salvatore. The parish is the protagonist of a curious legend: a mule would have knelt in front of the entrance portal, leaving its footprints imprinted on a stone. If you look closely, one of the stones in front of the entrance seems to be marked by the imprint of the hooves…
Just one kilometer from Arcidosso, heading east, is the village of Bagnoli. Here you can see the Pieve di Santa Mustiola which dates back to 1200, and a waterfall colled Cascata dell’Acqua d’Alto.
In the area around Arcidosso there are many centers of spirituality and places of worship. Among the most important there is also the Capuchin Convent which is located in San Lorenzo. Built between 1590 and 1593, the convent includes the Church of San Francesco which houses works by Francesco Vanni and Giuseppe Nicola Nasini, and the Chapel of Merope Becchini. In the village, the Romanesque church of San Lorenzo, which has been documented since 1067, is also worth a visit.
On Monte Amiata and in the immediate vicinity there are several other villages to visit: the most important centers are Castel del Piano, Santa Fiora, Abbadia San Salvatore, Piancastagnaio. and Roccalbegna.
How to get to Arcidosso
Arcidosso is located on the border between the provinces of Siena and Grosseto; it is located about 55 km from Grosseto, 80 km from Siena, 150 km from Florence and 180 km from Rome. The nearest railway station is Civitella Paganico, from there you have to continue by bus, let’s say that public transport is not ideal for reaching Arcidosso.
By car: If you come from Grosseto or Siena you have to take the Strada Statale 223 and exit at Paganico; then continue following the signs for Arcidosso / Monte Amiata. From Florence and Rome the fastest route is probably via the A1 motorway with the Chiusi exit; after you have to follow the signs for Arcidosso / Monte Amiata. Alternatively, from Florence you can take the Florence-Siena motorway link and then continue on the SS223.