Monte Amiata is a mountainous area that forms part of the Maremma, the Val d'Orcia and the Val di Chiana, in both the Grosseto and Siena provinces.
Monte Amiata is the highest extinct volcano in Italy, reaching 1736 metres. The surrounding area contains volcanic lakes, rugged rocks, river sources and several protected areas. Sparsely populated, it consists mostly of small towns spread throughout the valleys. Discover more about each of these charming villages:
1. Abbadia San Salvatore
This town sits on the edge of extensive chestnut woods covering the eastern side of Monte Amiata. It takes its name from the Abbey founded in 743, one of Tuscany’s oldest monasteries. The church and the crypt from the original Abbey can still be visited today. During the Middle Ages, the Abbey was an important stop along the Via Francigena route. The modern village has developed around the monastery, becoming a popular summer and winter resort. It is a picturesque medieval town with its outer walls and streets still intact. Stone houses dating from medieval and Renaissance times line the streets.
This village developed around its natural centerpiece, a castle dating from approximately 1000. The historic centre extends along the plateau dominated by the Aldobrandeschi Fortress. The Porta di Castello and the Porta Talassese also still stand. During the 19th century the town’s population grew significantly. Today it is best known as the gateway to the Monte Amiata Fauna Park. Apart from the castle, other Arcidosso sites worth seeing are the medieval churches, such as the Madonna dell'Incoronata, the church of San Niccolò and the church of San Leonardo, which all contain medieval frescoes, paintings and icons.
Situated on the southern slopes of Monte Amiata’s volcanic cone, Castell’Azzara has a storied past. Even in ancient times, it was widely known for its mineral deposits, particularly cinnabar. Among the things to see are the many churches with 17th century paintings; the Villa Sforza, an imposing residence that once belonged to the Sforza family, and a fortress, untouched since 1366. Also worth mentioning is the Monte Penna natural reserve, which is almost entirely wooded.
4. Castel del Piano
People lived in this area in prehistoric times, but the town itself was first mentioned in a document dating from 890 AD. It even charmed Pope Pio II, who, in his Commentaries, highlighted “the beauty of the place, the convenience of its position and the hospitality of the town.” One of the main sights is the Church of the Opera (or Proposal of St. Nicholas and St. Lucy), built in the Baroque style, but not completed until 1870. It is found in Piazza della Madonna. The Piccina Church is where the Palio is held every September. The area is known for its olive groves and vineyards, which produce quality oil and wines.
Piancastagnaio rises on the south-eastern slopes of Mount Amiata. The name of the place probably derives from a combination of “piano” (plain) and “castagnaio,” coming from the Latin “castanea.” The latter refers to the abundance of chestnut woods in the area. The town was founded in the Middle Ages and then ruled by the Aldobrandeschi family, who built an impressive fortress that still stands today. Among the most important things to see in Piancastagnaio are the Church of St. Bartholomew, the Sanctuary of the Madonna of St. Peter, the Church of St. Mary of the Assumption, the Municipal Palazzo and the Aldobrandesca. Don’t miss the traditional “Sagra della Crastata” (Chestnut Festival), held every year on November 1st. Attendees can taste the delicious, local, chestnut-based specialities, along with local wines.
6. Santa Fiora
This is a charming medieval village where stone walls, alleys, small churches and original buildings have all been preserved. Don’t miss Palazzo Sforza Cesarini, the old seat of local government, built in 1575 atop the ancient fortress. Also still intact is the medieval clock tower (“Torre dell’Orologio”). You should also visit the Parish of St. Flora and St. Lucilla, the most important and famous of the town’s monuments. Erected before 1000 AD, it was rebuilt in the 13th century and expanded in 1792. The interior houses a collection of splendid terracotta pieces attributed to Andrea Della Robbia. A peculiar must-see is the Peschiera, a striking lake that gathers the waters of the Fiora. Despite its small size, Santa Fiora is very vibrant. The most important Santa Fiora event is the International Festival of Music, which takes place in the park of Peschiera and inside the numerous village churches during the whole months of July and August.
This village is situated on the foothills of the north-western hills of Monte Amiata. One of the most unusual and interesting religious monuments of the Amiata is found here: the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Carità. The little church of St. Rocco, built in 1486, is also worth a stop, along with the parish church dedicated to St. Bartholomew. The latter church was built in the Middle Ages and reconstructed in the ‘30s. Near Seggiano, don’t miss the "Giardino di Daniel Spoerri", a sculpture garden by the eponymous artist.
A charming agricultural town, Cinigiano stands on a sloping hill descending from Monte Amiata. The only remains of the old town are the clock tower and the remnants of a medieval fortress. Don’t miss the Poggio all’Olmo Nature Reserve and its forests, natural pastures, agricultural areas and chestnut groves. Cinigiano is also known for products such as grain, grapes, olives and chestnuts.
Roccalbegna was an Aldobrandeschi family fief in the Middle Ages; later it became part of the Republic of Siena, later passing to the Medici. Finally, in the 18th century it became part of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Today it is a lovely medieval village dominated a large, white tower known as the Rock. Roccalbegna is home to many interesting fortifications, including the Cassero Senese, built in the 13th century by the Aldobrandeschi, and the Rocca Aldobrandesca, located on the hill overlooking the town and the Albegna river. The 13th-14th century Romanesque-Gothic church of St. Peter and St. Paul is remarkable: it stands in the main piazza, which the Town Hall and the small-but-striking civic clocktower both face.
This small village (the most southern of the Amiata towns) is situated on a hill characterized by narrow streets. The, Oratorio di Santa Croce, dating back from the twelfth century, dominates the hilltop. The Oratory of San Rocco (XV century) stands at the village entrance. Stop by the church of St. Vincenzo and Anastasio, hidden among the houses and home to sixteenth and seventeenth-century works. The village also still has some remains of the Rocca Aldobrandesca and medieval walls. At the end of November, Semproniano hosts an olive oil fair.
Radicofani was one of the most important strongholds in Italy. The fortress is several kilometers away, overlooking the town. The most important monument in Radicofani is the Roman church of San Pietro, dating from the 13th century. Behind the church, there is a square which offers a great view of the fortress. Stop by the Church of St. Agatha, and visit the Palazzo Pretorio to see its façade of the coat of arms of the area’s prominent ancient families . In the Macchione garden, the statue of Ghino di Tacco is worth a stop. To learn more about this person read this post.
12. San Quirico d'Orcia
From the XI century onwards, this town’s proximity to the Via Francigena, the ancient Roman-Longobard pilgrimage route from Northern Europe to Rome, contributed to the village’s rapid growth. This was first recorded in 712 AD. Today it is considered one of the most beautiful places in the world. Among the main attractions are the 12th-century Collegiate Church and the Church of St. Francis, which still houses the statue of the Madonna of Vitaleta by Andrea delle Robbia.
The view from Monte Amiata is probably the most expansive and impressive in all of central Italy. Monte Amiata is isolated and in favourable environmental conditions. Particularly during the winter, you can see for hundreds of miles: almost all of the Apennines, the Gran Sasso of Italy (Abruzzo); then, from south to north, Mount Terminillo (Lazio), the Sibillini mountains (Marche and Umbria), the Massif of Mount Catria (Apennines), Mount Falterona in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, Monte Cimone in the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines near Parma and part of the Ligurian Apennines. You can also see the cities of Grosseto, Siena, Arezzo, Viterbo and, in particular nighttime weather conditions, you can even see the lights of Rome. Lake Trasimeno and Bolsena are also both perfectly visible. To the west, in the direction of the Tyrrhenian Sea, you can view a substantial portion of the Tuscan archipelago, Elba Island, Monte Argentario and Corsica.
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