Valley is a land far from the noisiness and the uproar of modern
life, happily remote from the highways and big road junctions. The
unsuccessful industrial developement of the area and the never ending
link betwen the inhabitants and the traditional arts and crafts of the
past have safeguarded the man - environment relationship, raising it
to a dignity hardly known elsewhere.
Valley is not only a geographical area naturally privileged by its
history or an
area poetically definable through a series of images, it is also, more
than anything else, an ecosystem of social, geographical and cultural
relations to be protected and known in its complexity.
of the land constantly pursued a vital relationship with nature in the
past, a relantionship which was sometimes consciously strong ,
sometimes unconsciously sweet. The signs left by this enables us to
understand the past by looking at the landscape of to day, drawing us
nearer to those ancient visions which charmed painters, artists and
which thickens on the hilltops and encloses streans in a desperate
siege, creates unforseeable depths and ideograms; it then shapes
fluiting barriers, rhythmic signals and cornices with its sudden
the hilly line breaks down on the suddenly hard and sharp profiles of
the vegetation thickens to tin out again in the soft lines of the
vineyards and orchards.
speaking, the Orcia Valley turns up as a vast clayey offshoot
which still maintains heaps of tufa with golden and soft sandstone,
running non stop towards Mount Amiata and Cetona.
The clay downs which once frightened the travellers along the Roman
Road maintain their ancient beauty, but the relentess encroachment of
modernity has contributed to the modification of the appearance of the country in
several areas. That is why the task of the inhabitants of the valleis
to defend their land today which as any other great patrimony of
nature, has to be protected from extinction. It is the world of the
“Crete” the sweetest Sienese hills, rising up one ofter the
other like long waves of an ocean, crowned with cottages and cut by
long rows of cypress trees flanking the country roads.
To mark the landscape, east of
Mount Amiata, are two rivers, not particularly famous but quite interesting: the Orcia and
the Paglia. The Orcia rises at the foot of Mount Cetona, between S.
Casciano dei Bagni and Sarteano,
goes north through a large end severe plain, reclaimed in 1929, then
bends west through a wild gorge dominated by Rocca and Ripa
On the other side of the
mountain, past the railway station of Mount Amiata and the winding
road leading up to St. Antimo and Montalcino, the landscape
becomes more characteristic of the “Maremma”, as far as the river
flows into the River Ombrone.
The course of the Paglia is
shorter: it rises in the confluence of several streams running between
Radicofani and Abbadia San Salvatore, flows southwards
to the old boundary between the Popedome and Graunduchy of Tuscany,
and then bends eastwards among the thick woods of the Natural Reserves
of Mount Rufeno (Latium) and Mt. Meana (Umbria). It runs at last into
a wider valley and after bordering the steely Orvietan Rock, it flows
into the River Tiber.
Between the two rivers, the hills and the
gullies offer the naturalists different landscapes: lapwings and
ringdoves are sighted in the sky, in May wild orchids appear in the
Spas, hot springs, smoke-holes
complete the landscape to show the volcano is alive.
The hot waters and the vapours of
Mount Amiata give the landscape of this side of the mountain a
surprising and somewhat Dantesque atmosphere.
The Via Cassia, one of the most
beautiful and varied roads in Italy and all over the world, takes the
traveller to the areas east of Mount Amiata.
Built about 220 B.C. as a sign of
reconciliation and control over the Etruria conquered by Rome,
the Via Cassia links Rome to Florence, (and to Fiesole in the past)
going through the hills of Nepi, Sutri, Viterbo and the great plain of
Tuscia, the shores of Lake Bolsena, Siena and the sinuous valleys
separating “the Chianti” from the hills of St. Gimignano.
The Amiatan stretch is about 40 Km. long from the Latium-Tuscany
borders to St. Gimignano. The present lay-out of the road runs
fast and smooth, avoiding the famous slopes up to Radicofani,
which were so tiring in the Middle Ages and still difficult to travel
on twenty years ago, but which offers a wonderful view of the volcano.
Almost coinciding with the old Via Cassia was the
lay-out of the via Francigena, one the medieval Pilgrim routes
to Rome. The route, of which an accurate description dating bach to
994 A.D. by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Siberis is Kept intact,
climbed over the Alps at the Great San Bernard Pass, arrived in Paris
and crossed the Appennines, descending to Pontremoli and Lucca . The
route then skimmed Florence, heading south to Siena. After Mount
Amiata, it sloped upwards to Radicofani, skirted around Lake
Bolsena, went on towards Rome through Montefiascone, Viterbo and
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