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Cultural tours

History, fortified villages, traditions, feasts and festivals, churches and castles, museums, Merigar (the Tibetan Community), David Lazzaretti, Daniel Spoerri's sculpture Garden...

History, fortified villages, traditions, feasts and festivals, churches and castles, museums, Merigar (the Tibetan Community), David Lazzaretti, Daniel Spoerri’s sculpture garden.

Violent volcanic eruptions more than 180,000 years ago gave birth to Amiata.The first signs of life here go back to Palaeolithic times as the remains of paintings in the Grotta dell’Arciere near Abbadia San Salvatore show.Then came the Etruscans for whom Monte Amiata was sacred, and the Romans who exploited it particularly for its silver firs ,

from which they made their ships, and cinnabar which they used for painting or preparing cosmetics. They built various settlements near the hot springs.

A dark period followed until Rachis, a Lombard King founded the Abbey of San Salvatore and the monks colonized the surrounding land.They also controlled the Via Francigena which linked Rome with northern Europe. At the beginning of the Middle Ages, the Aldobrandeschi (a powerful feudal family who ruled theMaremma) started expanding their lands.In the thirteenth century Sienese penetration began and exercised a profound influence over history and art. In modern times the mining for cinnabar in order to extract mercury was developed and continued right up until 1970.

Beautiful fortified villages, perched on rocky outcrops, ring the mountain between 650 and 850 m. above sea level.

Numerous castles (The Aldobrandeschi castle in Arcidosso, the Rocca at Piancastagnaio, La Rocca di Ghino di Tacco at Radicofani, Rocca a Tentennano at Castiglion D’Orcia and the Castello di Potentino at Seggiano) and churches (the Abbey at San Salvatore, the Pieve church at Santa Fiora) are all worth visiting.

Monte Labbro is a singular place, once home toDavid Lazzaretti, the ‘prophet’ of Amiata.In the second half of the nineteenth century he founded a religious community which intended to apply the teachings of the Gospels.His followers numbered over 3,000.On Monte Labbro are the remains of their buildings.

A few years ago Merigar, a Centre for Tibetan studies, one of Europe’s most important, took root under the spiritual guidance of Namkhai Norbu.

The mountain is rich in legends and traditions which give rise to numerous feasts and festivals.A full calendar is evidence of just how rich and old is man’s history on our volcano.

The first of the year is the ‘befanate’,the night between January 5th and 6th when groups of transvestites (i befani) visit all the houses in the village singing a song and asking for alms.

Then the spring festivals: the Pine festival at the Pieve ad Lamulas, the Feast of the Holy Cross at Santa Fiora, le Maggiolate on the evening of April 30th at Castiglion D’Orcia.

The horse races, Pali, celebrated at Piancastagnaio on 18th August and at Castel del Piano on September 8th are important and exuberant occasions.

Autumn festivals include the Sagra del Marrone (chestnut Festival) at Campiglia d’Orcia, the Castratone, (The Chestnut Festival) at Piancastagnaio, the Festa del Fungo (mushrooms) at Bagnolo and the Festa della Castagna (chestnut) at Arcidosso.

On December 24th there is the “Fiaccole di Natale”(a torchlight processon) at Abbadia San Salvatore and on December 30th “le Carboniere, (huge bonfires) are lit at Santa Fiora.

Our patrimony of folklore has been well preserved too. Several groups perform popular music. The two most notable are ‘I Cardellini del Fontanino’ from Castel del Piano, which goes back fifty years, and the ‘Coro dei minatori (miners) from Santa Fiora.

There are several museums, most notably those at Abbadia San Salvatore and Santa Fiora which trace the history of the mining era, but also the museum of Vines and Wine at Montenero, of Cultura Contadina (farming culture) at Santa Caterina, and the “Casa” museum at Monticello Amiata which illustrates life in the country at the end of the nineteenth century.
Daniel Spoerri’s Garden at Seggiano is very different and unusual.It is a park with very varied modern sculptures.


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