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Photo © Shutterstock / Buffy 1982
Photo © Shutterstock / Buffy 1982

Romance and legends in Amiata

Trekking to find legends and love stories

The view from from here is vast and you can almost hear the sound of waters of the Ombrone and Orcia rivers coming together at the foot of this magical mountain, Mont'Amiata. Illuminated by the sun, which sets on the sea, it is the perfect place to breathe the fresh air of the woods. Start your trekking journey here, in search of the many romantic love stories and legends that have been told for centruries in these woods. Below are but a few.
Prato della contessa
Prato della contessa - Credit: Michela Balzari

Legend has it that at the Meadow of the Countess, where among the foliage of the beech trees, there are enchanted woods that tell stories of historic competitions and love trysts of two well-known lovers: Adalberto and Gherarda.

Gherarda Aldobrandeschi was a gentle girl, the Countess of Cana, a small town near Roccalbegna, who lived as a guest at the Abbey of San Salvatore. Here the monks of the monastery gave her a cell that was above the courtyard where the Re Ratchis well was located. The girl after frequent and long rides in the woods of Amiata, loved to stop at the monastery. Lord of Chiusi, Adalberto's first meeting with Gherarda took place in Buonconvento. The knight was immediately struck by Gherarda's beauty and he fell in love deeply with her; it was a reciprocated love. So one day, while Gherarda was riding in the woods of Mont'Amiata, she was struck by the beautiful greenery of the Meadow of the Countess and ordered the loggers to expand the clearing and create a large meadow surrounded by beech trees so she could go there with her lover Adalberto. In the meantime, her family, the Aldobrandeschi, forced her to marry Orsino, Count of Pitigliano, so they could consolidate their power. Gherarda suffered greatly as a result, and asked Adalberto to meet her for the last time in the picturesque meadow where they had spent such enchanting and happy moments. Since then, this meadow has been called the "Lawn of the Countess." Meanwhile Adalberto, in despair at having lost Gherarda and went into hidding in the monastery of San Salvatore Abbey, where, according to legend, he met Gherarda again, who was allowed to go there in the month of September. So she met Adalberto once again to exchange their last kisses.

- Credit: Senpai

Another legend may be able to explain another oddity in the area: a maritime pine tree that lives in the mountains at one thousand meters in altitude. Perhaps it is this legend next that will help us find the explanation to such a strange, unexplained occurance. In Vivo d'Orcia, where the woods of Mont'Amiata give way to rolling hills of the Val d'Orcia, not far from the town, there is the Hermitage del Vivo, a late-Renaissance building overlooking the valley below. The valley that leads to the hermitage is one of the most impressive in all of the Amiata area. Access to this village is the romantic "Lovers' Bridge", immersed in the lush vegetation of Abetina. The Hermitage del Vivo on Mount'Amiata was built by the Camaldolesi. The first documentation speaking of this place dates back to the year 1,000 AD. In the sixteenth century, the property passed to the family Cervini, along with the title of County. It is precisely in this hermitage where you can find the maritime pine tree, which much to everyone's surprise, is able to live 1,000 meters above sea level. According to legend, it is here that a groom, who was madly in love with the Countess of Cervini, declared his love to her and gave her the pine, which has managed to survive in this cold environment thanks to the power of love!

Arcidosso - Credit: Alexandre Kupac

These places of "love" in Amiata are also the backdrop to the rituals of courtship, which used to be held in the spring. Note the local Pine Festival, which is held the first Sunday after Easter in the picturesque scenery of the Lamula parish in Arcidosso. The event is tied to the religious rituals of engagement through the  “sortita”, a footpath used by locals from nearby towns who would walk to the parish church.

Upon leaving mass, girls were given pine branch (natural, golden or silver) as an official request to marry or as a sign of romantic interest. In addition to this gift was a game that took place "off the green." In the morning, the man would gave the woman a sprig of ivy and in the afternoon he would ask for confirmation of his 'request' with a conventional phrase. Both with the pine branch as with the game, the woman would confirm her feelings by giving the man a gift of a "sugar", a traditional dessert of the area.

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