Amiata is the highest mountain in Tuscany and a tour of the area makes
a very interesting itinerary. This solitary mountain in the very heart
of the region rises between the valleys of the Orcia, the Fiora, and the
Paglia, and is the result of powerful volcanic eruptions
that occurred between 180 and 290 million years ago. It is well known
for its mercury sulphide (cinnabar) mines; some of the deposits
were discovered by the Etruscans and until recently they formed a substantial
component of the local economy. There was human settlement on the mountain
in pre-historic times, as testified by the Pittura dell'Arciere
on the top of the mountain at 1738m.
A trip along the various provincial roads of the Amiata
makes for one of the most interests journeys in Tuscany. The ideal place
to start is Abbadia San Salvatore, which is popular both in the
summer and in the winter (for skiing).
Leaving Abbadia San Salvatore and driving south, you come to Piancastagnaio;
it was originally the property of the abbey, but then it changed hands
and came under the control of the Visconti, then the Aldobrandeschi family,
and finally, in 1416, it was taken over by Siena. Entrance to the town
is through a battlemented gateway; inside are the remains of a castle
erected by the Aldobrandeschi.
The valley of the river Fiora rises gently amidst chestnut trees
and provides a wonderful view of the Lago di Bolsena.
In the valley there are also lots of signs of prehistoric and Etruscan
settlement. Santa Fiora is one of the most important resorts in
the Amiata area and has a well-preserved historic centre which grew up
around the Castello degli Aldobrandeschi, who made it the capital of their
Arcidosso is an agricultural and resort town built in a semi-circle
round the castle of the Aldobrandeschi family. Various cultural events
are held in the castle that dominates the town.
Fotografia di Sandro Santioli