Monte Amiata is perhaps south Tuscany's only mountain, in contrast to the famous rolling hills which attract thousands of visitors each year.
This now extinct volcano sits on the borders of Siena and Grosseto and is easily reachable from any of Arezzo, Orvieto, Perugia, Viterbo and Chiusi.
Surrounded by the Monte Labro and Civitella massifs, Amiata supplies crystal clear water to Siena and Grosseto, to the Orcia valley and the Maremma plains. It is an incredibly interesting zone and even boasts its own wine, Montecucco, which is produced at the foot of the mountain.
To sample the whole range of wines produced here head to the Museo della Vite e del Vino in Montenero near Castel del Piano.
The area offers fantastic walks through dense broad leaf woods still home to the occasional wolf apparently, as well as wild boar and deer.
When the snow comes the paths turn into excellent cross country ski routes while the grassy slopes of 'Prato della Contessa', 'Prato delle Macinaie', 'Marsiliana' and 'Cantore' offer 15 genuine ski runs for a total of 12.5 miles of piste. Why not combine Christmas shopping in Florence and Siena with a day on the slopes?
For Christmas the small towns surrounding the mountain also organize traditional events. These coincide with the winter fires or 'fiaccole' which mark the end of the solar calendar and the return of longer days.
We recommend these locations which all have local character and history for discovering the nature and beauty of the Monte Amiata.
Abbadia San Salvatore
Notable for its historic center and abbey founded in AD 743 by the Longobard King Rachis and rebuilt in a Romanesque style in 1036.
There are various works of art inside, including a fresco by Francesco Nasini, the Martirio di San Bartolomeo. Beneath there is a crypt pre-dating the construction of the church, with as many as thirty-six columns, each one with a different capital. Look out for the wonderful presepe.
Situated at the foot of Mount Civitella, it was first inhabited by the Umbrian people and the Etruscans.
The place name Castell’Azzara comes from a famous and historical dice game (called Zara), won by Bonifacio of the Aldobrandeschi (‘200). The Aldobrandeschi family built at the foot of the mountain two fortresses. Built for a defensive purposes the Rocca Silvana is probably one of the oldest one of the Amiata territory.
Of particular interest it is also the now abandoned “Sforzesca”: a stately country-house built during the XVI century by the Cardinal Alessandro Sforza
Castel del Piano
For its renaissance church and fantastic view of the extinct volcano (see below) it is a perfect departure point for long mountain walks and the ski runs in winter.
Castel del Piano also runs its own mini Palio in the August just like Siena where many young jokeys learn the ropes, literally.
Parco faunistico del Monte Amiata, Arcidosso