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Tradition and fire: five events on Monte Amiata

Ancestral and mysterious, the rituals linked to fire are still alive and reveal a past in which flames chased away evil and gave new life

by  Amiata

On Monte Amiata, festivals, rites and traditions are celebrated every year that are linked to fruit and elements of the earth such as water from the springs, mushrooms and chestnuts. However, among the most intriguing of these events are those that revolve around fire, perhaps inspired and strengthened by the volcanic nature of the land.

  • 1.
    Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore
  • 2.
    Focarazza of Santa Caterina (Roccalbegna)
  • 3.
    Torchlight procession of Santa Fiora
  • 4.
    Fires of San Giovanni
  • 5.
    Feast of the Assumption on Monte Labbro (Arcidosso)

Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore

Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore
Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore - Credit: Ambito Turistico Amiata

Among the traditions that warm the villages during the Christmas period, the Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore are certainly among the most famous. On the evening of December 24, the town is filled with huge pyres that burn, illuminating the streets and bringing warmth to the locals who have poured into the streets. A choir winds through the village, stopping at each torch and raising songs to the sky. After the traditional mass, the cellars are opend and the heart of the town warms up with fire and wine.

Focarazza of Santa Caterina (Roccalbegna)

Folklore event in Amiata
Folklore event in Amiata - Credit: Ambito Turistico Amiata

This is an ancient tradition that has spanned the centuries and remains unchanged to the present day. It takes place every year on the evening of November 24, or on the eve of the birth of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. On the top of a hill, the locals gather around an oak log called "stollo" that is blessed by the parish priest and wrapped in bundles of cloth which are set on fire. With the flare of the flames, a race also begins in which everyone tries to get the stollo and bring it within their own district that would award them victory and put an end to the competition.
The event is a passionate affair for locals, so much so that it has been illustrated and told in the Focarazza Museum of Santa Caterina.

Torchlight procession of Santa Fiora

Torchlight procession of Santa Fiora
Torchlight procession of Santa Fiora - Credit: Ambito Turistico Amiata

Dating back to ancient times when fire rites were held to purify and chase away evil, the Torchlight procession that takes place on the evening of December 30 in Santa Fiora hasn't changed much. Consisting of a long procession ithat's lluminated by the light of many fires, it winds through the streets and alleys where the "carboniere", large wooden pyres burn, and ends in front of the door of Palazzo Sforza Cesarini, where sweet polenta based on the typical fruit of these areas, chestnuts, is served.

Fires of San Giovanni

On the occasion of the Summer Solstice, the night between 24 and 25 June, the Amiata countryside is filled with fires and bonfires which light up the dark and bring back to life ancient propitiatory rites in which the burning of tows (fabric) and scattering ash on the fields was an auspicious act.

Feast of the Assumption on Monte Labbro (Arcidosso)

Finally, a more recent but still interesting event, the cult of the Jurisdavidics is relived once a year when, on the night between 14 and 15 August, his followers gather in the depths of a cave to remember the events that led to the death of their "Prophet". Visible from the surrounding valleys, a fire burns on the mysterious tower.

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