On Monte Amiata, festivals, rites and traditions are celebrated every year that are linked to fruit and elements of the earth such as water from the springs, mushrooms and chestnuts. However, among the most intriguing of these events are those that revolve around fire, perhaps inspired and strengthened by the volcanic nature of the land.
Among the traditions that warm the villages during the Christmas period, the Torches of Abbadia San Salvatore are certainly among the most famous. On the evening of December 24, the town is filled with huge pyres that burn, illuminating the streets and bringing warmth to the locals who have poured into the streets. A choir winds through the village, stopping at each torch and raising songs to the sky. After the traditional mass, the cellars are opend and the heart of the town warms up with fire and wine.
This is an ancient tradition that has spanned the centuries and remains unchanged to the present day. It takes place every year on the evening of November 24, or on the eve of the birth of Saint Catherine of Alexandria. On the top of a hill, the locals gather around an oak log called "stollo" that is blessed by the parish priest and wrapped in bundles of cloth which are set on fire. With the flare of the flames, a race also begins in which everyone tries to get the stollo and bring it within their own district that would award them victory and put an end to the competition.
The event is a passionate affair for locals, so much so that it has been illustrated and told in the Focarazza Museum of Santa Caterina.
Dating back to ancient times when fire rites were held to purify and chase away evil, the Torchlight procession that takes place on the evening of December 30 in Santa Fiora hasn't changed much. Consisting of a long procession ithat's lluminated by the light of many fires, it winds through the streets and alleys where the "carboniere", large wooden pyres burn, and ends in front of the door of Palazzo Sforza Cesarini, where sweet polenta based on the typical fruit of these areas, chestnuts, is served.
On the occasion of the Summer Solstice, the night between 24 and 25 June, the Amiata countryside is filled with fires and bonfires which light up the dark and bring back to life ancient propitiatory rites in which the burning of tows (fabric) and scattering ash on the fields was an auspicious act.
Finally, a more recent but still interesting event, the cult of the Jurisdavidics is relived once a year when, on the night between 14 and 15 August, his followers gather in the depths of a cave to remember the events that led to the death of their "Prophet". Visible from the surrounding valleys, a fire burns on the mysterious tower.