Monte Amiata - nature tourism the year round
A volcano that has been inactive for thousands of years, Monte Amiata is 1738 metres high and extends into the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, comprising the towns of Abbadia San Salvatore, Piancastagnaio, Castiglion d’Orcia and Radicofani.
A vast iron cross 22 metres tall, completed by a craftsman from Siena named Zalaffi in 1910, marks the peak of Monte Amiata, which commands spectacular views out to the Maremma, the Argentario peninsula, the Uccellina natural reserve and as far as the islands of Elba and Giglio.
Inland the panorama covers a varied countryside that runs from the green hills of the Chianti to the grey of the Crete Senesi.
First settled by the Etruscans and later by the Romans, the Monte Amiata is crossed by the Via Francigena and during the Middle Ages was an important crossroads between the Republic of Siena and the Papal States.
One of the most popular tourist destinations in southern Tuscany, Monte Amiata boasts a broad variety of natural habitats, from forests of chestnut and beech to water springs and even mineral quarries.
The towns that surround the mountain have a great deal to offer in terms of sightseeing, with remarkable churches, castles and monasteries.
A number of nature reserves have been instituted on Monte Amiata, such as the Parco Faunistico dell’Amiata, which is within the Riserva Naturale del Monte Labbro – not far from Arcidosso – and contains abundant fauna ranging from deer to wolves and a unique breed of wild donkey known as Amiatina.
The well organised tourist reception structures of Monte Amiata make this a popular destination all year round and a perfect base from which to explore the marvels of Tuscany and nearby Umbria and Lazio. From a naturalistic point of view, this region offers ever changing scenery and colours, from snow in the winter to fresh temperatures in the summer.
In winter the peak of Monte Amiata functions as one of the best equipped ski resorts in Tuscany and the whole of central Italy. Prato delle Macinaie at 1385 above sea level, Prato della Contessa at 1410 above sea level, the Rifugio Cantore at 1428 above sea level and Pian della Marsiliana all extend up towards the highest point of the mountain. There are 15 resorts for a total of about 15 kilometres worth of skiing – with two funiculars and 10 ski-lifts – and different level tracks.
In spring and summer, between 1000 and 1300 metres above sea level, Monte Amiata is ideal for trekking and mountain biking and the tourist itineraries are provided with a number of picnic areas.
Among the most interesting excursions on the Monte Amiata are the Sentieri della Castagna – six itineraries for walkers and one for drivers. During the chestnut gathering season in autumn, from September 15th to November 15th, tourists are only allowed here accompanied by a guide. Some chestnut trees in this area are over 500 years old. Those who are fond of fine cooking will be able to enjoy the abundance of chestnuts in a variety of local dishes.
Those who are more interested in tougher excursions either on horseback, trekking or by mountain bike, should not miss the Anello della Montagna itinerary that runs for 28 kilometres around the circumference of the old volcano.