Monte Amiata is full of surprises, traditions and flavours waiting to be discovered. Its surroundings encompass the municipalities of Abbadia San Salvatore, Arcidosso, Castell’Azzara, Castel del Piano, Castiglione d’Orcia, Piancastagnaio, Santa Fiora, Seggiano, Cinigiano, Roccalbegna, Semproniano, Radicofani and San Quirico d’Orcia. Here are some must-try delicacies if you happen to find yourself in the Amiata area.
Boiled, roasted, raw, glazed, dried, jammed, ground and turned into flour to make polenta, pancakes or chestnut cake: here are some of the ways that the IGP chestnuts of Monte Amiata have been used, since ancient times, as a fundamental part of the local diet. The Chestnuts here are connected to the tradition of goglioli: incised with a knife, they are put in a pan on the fire. They are stirred every so often so as to cook well without burning, then doused with a bit of red wine and covered with a cloth.
True gluttons usually submerge the shelled chestnuts in a glass of red wine. Known as goglioli in Abbadia, they go by the name of crastatoni in nearby Piancastagnaio, which holds a chestnut festival every November.
Apart from the prestigious Extra Virgin Olive Oil Toscano IGP, some parts of Amiata also produce the Extra Virgin Olive Oil Seggiano DOP. This oil is notable for its large yield, sometimes more than 30%, and by a low level of acidity. For these reasons, the oil from the olive trees of Seggiano is recommended in a low-cholesterol diet.
But the Amiata territory is also rich in mushrooms, strawberries and raspberries, the natural fruits of the forest. In recent times various companies have combed the undergrowth in an effort to harvest the fruity perfume that suffuses the delicious local dishes. These include the fresh mushroom soup that one can sample at the September Sagra del fungo amiatino (festival of the Amiata mushroom) in Bagnolo, near the hilltown of Santa Fiora. Some areas, particularly Castell’Azzara, are also home to uniquely-flavoured truffles, which are used in recipes of characteristic Amiata simplicity.
Not far from the prized appellations of Brunello di Montalcino, Morellino di Scansano and Monteregio di Massa Marittima, one finds another excellent wine: the Montecucco DOC. This more recent appellation was certified in July 1998, and is composed of different grape varieties such Sangiovese for the red and Vermentino for the white. The Sangiovese and other reds can even be labelled with the riserva typology. Montecucco goes perfectly with Pecorino Toscano DOP, also produced in the area.
Among other things, the region is famous for the savoury Roccalbegna biscuits (the recipe of which employs humble ingredients and dates back to the Middle Ages) and brecciotto di Roccalbegna, an irregularly-shaped biscuit with essence of aniseed and a vinous smell. Native to Abbadia San Salvatore, meanwhile, is Ricciolina, a circular sweet with a dry exterior and a soft inside, of which the prevailing flavours are chocolate and almonds.