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 show. Then came the Etruscans for whom Monte Amiata was sacred, and the Romans. 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, with the Aldobrandeschi expansion and Sienese penetration, fortified villages, perched on rocky outcrops, numerous castles and beautiful churches were built. In modern times the mining for cinnabar in order to extract mercury was developed and continued right up until 1970.
Our patrimony of folklore has been well preserved; there are several museums, singular places like Monte Labbro once home to David Lazzaretti, the ‘prophet’ of Amiata and nowadays the site of Merigar West Centre for Tibetan studies and the unusual Daniel Spoerri’s sculpture Garden.
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.