> Mount Amiata and the Vulcano
Amiata and its Vulcano
Amiata is located south of Siena and Via Cassia runs through
it. In antiquity it was one of the major arteries of the incredible
system of the Roman Empire which lead to and from Rome. The
Amiata is a mount rich in water, rivers and dark forests of
beech and chestnut. It is a land of farmers and miners with
honest faces; the bearers of stories and legends unknown to
the men of the plains.
Above all, Mt. Amiata is, actually was, thousands of years ago,
a huge volcano whose eruptions inundated the surrounding hills
for centuries with lava. Once condensed and stratified into
the ground, it became a porous substance called "tufo" (tuff-stone)
which was a marking and an emblem of an entire civilization,
that of the Etruscans.
Today, the fear of an eruption has disappeared. Amiata (1750
meters above sea level) also has one of the most famous ski
runs in Tuscany. During this very period, the skiers are anxiously
awaiting the first snowfalls and preparing the numerous runs
which weave the pattern of the summit.
Another aspect, maybe even more interesting, about this mountain
is that once the snow has melted in the springtime, it is gradually
absorbed into the aquifers in the lower mountains where it heats
up. The water gets up to temperatures between 37 and 45° C in
the various springs that gush all around the mountain. It serves
as a reminder that some type of volcanic activity, even if only
residual, is still present.
These springs, rich in sulphur and other healing elements, were
frequented by the aristocracy of the Roman Empire. Evidence
of this is found in the travel journals of merchants and pilgrims
who in Medieval times crossed the Via Cassia and emerged themselves
in these thermal springs for relief of aching legs and feet
butchered from days, and sometimes months of solid marching.
The springs still flow today near just about every village from
di San Filippo to Bagno
Vignoni and from Santa Fiora to Saturnia.
Each of these towns has developed a system to trap the thermal
water which has led to the birth of modern health spas with
pools, saunas, and massage therapy. For the more adventurous,
many springs still exist in the woods or in the open countryside
where everything has remained untouched for thousands of years.
If you are planning a trip to Tuscany, especially during the
colder months, don't miss out on the following places: you can
get to the springs only on foot (there are road signs posted
for directions). To get to the baths of San Filippo and some
of the others, you'll need to go through huge forests of oaks
and chestnuts. At times your only guide will be the scent of
the undergrowth of the forest and do not expect to even run
into a house or a streetlight.
In one stretch the fog will become dense and you'll feel the
pelting of the water in your face combined with the strong odour
of sulphur. At this point, you can take off your gloves and
hat that you so desperately needed just minutes earlier. The
hot water that pushes its way out of the mountain also heats
up everything around it. You won't believe that emerging yourselves
in those natural wells in the white calcium will feel as smooth
as a bathtub. You'll be able to truly relax with your head propped
up against the side of the "tub" and relinquish yourselves to
the benefits of the hydro-massage. Maybe you'll be anticipating
the new day in the company of some of your closest friends.
You'll feel reborn.