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Photo © Helena
Photo © Helena

Discovering Monte Amiata

The giant watching over the Val d'Orcia

In Southern Tuscany, there’s a special full of art, things to do and magical landscapes. We’re talking about Monte Amiata, in the province of Siena, which faces the rolling landscape of the Val d'Orcia to the northeast and the Maremma on the eastern side.

In ancient times, Monte Amiata was a volcano, but don’t worry, it’s dormant today! It’s also the highest in Italy at 1,736 metres. One of the reasons the area is so stunning is because it’s largely untouches and has maintained its rural charm, making it a paradise for sports lovers and all those wanting to explore the beautiful area by bike, horseback or on foot, and visit the historic villages dotting the territory. For anyone thinking of taking a holiday here, let us suggest a few ideas for ways to spend your time in the area.

  • 1.
    If you like eating
  • 2.
    If you like culture and nature
  • 3.
    If you like spa resorts
  • 4.
    If you like history
  • 5.
    If you like sports

If you like eating

Castagnaccio - Credit: Flavia Cori

Monte Amiata is the kingdom of chestnuts and mushrooms. Chestnuts in particular have always been present in traditional dishes, like chestnut polenta, castagnaccio and bread made with the chestnut flour. But Amiata is also famous for boar or lamb buglioni, cinta meat, handmade pasta and wine.

If you like culture and nature

Monte Amiata
Monte Amiata - Credit: Antonio Cinotti

Wonderful trails, rocks, springs, rivers and streams across a volcanic landscape formed millions of years ago are just waiting to be discovered and enjoyed. Monte Amiata also has a long history connected to mining, and the Mining Museum of Monte Amiata explores the places connected to one of the most important mercury mines in the world. You might even be able to find old miners who can speak to you about the hard life of mining.

If you like spa resorts

Bagno Vignoni
Bagno Vignoni - Credit: Andrea Donati

Because Monte Amiata was an active volcano in Antiquity, today it’s home to many thermal springs. There are three spa resorts in the area around the mountain: Bagni San Filippo, Bagno Vignoni and, just a few kilometres away, San Casciano dei Bagni, all with thermal springs that flow endlessly from deep underground, and each one offering a wide array of treatments.

If you like history

Abbadia San Salvatore
Abbadia San Salvatore - Credit: Ilaria Giannini

The famous via Francigena passes by the foot of the mountain, while via Cassia crosses it a bit higher up, from where you’ll see Abbadia San Salvatore, founded in the early Middle Ages, and the Abbey of San Salvatore. Among the many events that regularly take place in Abbadia San Salvatore, one of the most interesting is the traditional “Medieval Festival” that takes place in July. The event includes a historical procession, dances and duels that evoke the Middle Ages.

If you like sports

Archeological Park in Pitigliano
Archeological Park in Pitigliano - Credit: Musei Archeologici di Pitigliano

This area is perfect for people who like sports:

  • Skiing: here, skiers can choose between 15 ski lifts in four locations on the mountain (Prato della Contessa, Prato delle Macinaie, Marsiliana, and the Cantore Refuge). These modern lifts serve over 25 km of ski trails and slopes, and ski instructors and ski schools are also available to help you learn how to master them.
  • Walking: the most important excursion is the “Mountain Ring,” a magnificent 28-km itinerary that travels around the volcano. It takes excursionists through towns and villages like Abbadia San Salvatore, Vivo d'Orcia, Arcidosso, Piancastagnaio and Santa Fiora. Other itineraries connect Santa Fiora, Piancastagnaio and the “Mountain Ring” to Monte Civitella and Castell'Azzara. These footpaths wind through the nature reserves of Pigelleto and Monte Penna.
  • Hiking: following the marked routes in the province of Grosseto, hikers can go to Pitigliano, Saturnia, Scansano and the Argentario area. The routes in Siena lead to Montalcino, Pienza, Montepulciano, Chiusi and the city of Siena. The Firenze-Siena-Roma trail connects 25 Tuscan cities to Rome and crosses the forests on Monte Amiata and the fields of Monte Labbro.
  • Horse riding: all the marked itineraries on Monte Amiata can be travelled on horseback with special guides.
  • Cycling: for most of the routes on Monte Amiata, it’s recommended that cyclists use an all-terrain bicycle that can ride on both uphill and downhill asphalted and dirt roads. The five routes that travel up Monte Amiata are recommended for expert cyclists.
  • Speleology: you can be a speleologist in the Sassocolato and Bacheca caves, located in the Monte Penna Nature Reserve. Guided visits are organized by the Gruppo Speleologico l'Orso in Castell'Azzara.

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