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The Heartwarming Magic of Tuscany’s Abbadia San Salvatore

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Situated within the shade of Tuscany’s Monte Amiata, Abbadia San Salvatore offered my family a serene escape from the arteries of Florence and Rome. Here are my favorite things to do in Abbadia San Salvatore after spending several days in a quaint villa.

Like many small historic towns and villages in the Italian countryside, life moves slower in Abbadia San Salvatore. This allows you to take a breath, savor the little things, and immerse yourself in this dreamy locale blessed with unique history and traditions.

Renting a car from Florence, the scenic drive to our villa near the town center was rife with rolling hills and picturesque vistas that Tuscany is known for. Upon our arrival, I was immediately struck by the tranquil ambiance of this Italian village, where you feel like time has taken a break – with a glass of Chianti.

Here’s a picture of our charming villa. We booked it through HomeExchange, where the villa’s owners stayed at our home in Minneapolis!

Rustic stone villa surrounded by lush gardens in Tuscany
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

This was the main reason for our trip, and I loved it. It allowed us to explore a new area we wouldn’t have visited otherwise. There are similar quaint hotels and B&B-style accommodations available on Booking.com.

What is Abbadia San Salvatore Known For?

Picturesque alley in Abbadia San Salvatore, Tuscany
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Abbadia San Salvatore is a prime example of a monastic settlement in Tuscany. The heart of this town is the Abbey of San Salvatore, from which the village gets its name. This ancient, ruined abbey has been a focal feature of the commune for over 1000 years. It may be the heart, but the soul comes from the warm, tradition-steeped folks we met while we were here during the village’s famous Torch Festival.

The abbey was pivotal in overseeing the Via Francigena in the Amiatina region. The village’s development unfolded in three distinct phases between the eighth and fourteenth centuries. The first phase involved establishing a core area known as “Castellina,” encircled by city walls already present in the tenth century, housing the monastery’s workers.

In the second phase, during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the “Castello” grew, prompting the construction of a second set of city walls, remnants of which are still visible today.

The third phase saw the formation of a nucleus called the “Borgo,” marked by the erection of a final, distinct ring of city walls. This phase gave Abbadia San Salvatore its final form.

In the thirteenth century, due to its strategic position on the border of the Patrimonio di San Pietro, administered by the church, the village was caught in the territorial ambitions of Orvieto and Siena. Initially controlled by Orvieto and later by Siena, Abbadia San Salvatore ultimately came under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Siena. This occurred following a treaty signed with the Aldobrandeschi family of Santa Fiora in 1347.

TL;DR

No.

Activities

Average Duration

1

Visit the Abbey of San Salvatore

2 hours

2

Explore the Mining Museum Park

1.5 hours

3

Walk around Monte Amiata

3 hours

4

Try local cuisine at a authentic restaurant

1 hour

5

Attend the traditional Torchlight Festival

Evening event

Things to Do in Abbadia San Salvatore

1. Tour The Abbey (Abbazia di San Salvatore)

Abbazia di San Salvatore historic monastery in Tuscany Italy
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Address: Via del Monastero, 50, 53021 Abbadia San Salvatore SI, Italy

The ancient Abbey of San Salvatore was our first stop, and it should be yours too!  Steeped in history, the abbey was founded during the early Middle Ages in the 8th century by the Lombard King Ratchis.

Despite being a little weatherworn on the outside, it’s remarkably well preserved within and a textbook example of an early-medieval Italian church. A refuge for Benedictine monks before converting to a Cistercian monastery, the Abbey of San Salvatore carries a palpable sense of history in its ancient corridors and cloisters. Highlights for me were the main pulpit and the courtyard.

Abbey of San Salvatore tranquil courtyard with vibrant flowers, Tuscany Italy
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

This old church is one of the most culturally significant in the region and Italy. In addition to being a clashing point between warring Tuscan houses in the medieval period, this place was once home to the Bibbia Amiatina (aka the Codex Amiatinus or the Jarrow Codex).

Historic Abbazia San Salvatore interior, Tuscany
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

For those of you not in the know, the Codex Amiatinus is the best-preserved Latin Vulgate version of the Christian Bible in the world. Compiled around the year 700 in Northeast England, it was a gift for Pope Gregory II.

It is the world’s oldest complete one-volume Latin Bible and was held at the Abbey from the 9th to the 18th centuries. This sacred text is now in the Laurentian Library in Florence.

2. Explore The Crypt

Crypt of the Abbey of Abbadia San Salvatore, Tuscany, Italy
Lars Johansson / Adobe Stock

Address: Via del Monastero, 32, 53021 Abbadia San Salvatore SI, Italy

Beneath the Abbey lies an extraordinary crypt that’s an attraction in its own right. Filled with densely packed columns resembling a white stone forest, the stonework of the walls is nothing short of fascinating. It blows my mind that this seemingly hodge-podge pile of rocks is still standing after over a millennium.

There’s also a mini museum down here and a few small exhibits, too. It’s a great place to learn about the abbey, as well as the history of the town, the region, and the influence Catholicism has had over Italy.

3. Visit The Mining Park and Museum

Mining museum of Abbadia San Salvatore, Tuscany, Italy
ermess / Adobe Stock

Address: Via Suor Gemma, n. 1, 53021 Abbadia San Salvatore SI, Italy

Fancy lingering underground a little while longer? Dive deeper into the region’s history at the Mining Park and Museum. This fantastic museum showcases the area’s historic mercury mining industry in an old mercury mine that extracted this valuable, toxic liquid metal from 1899 to 1972.

It’s easy to spend a whole day here – the park alone is great for a stroll on a sunny day. The Mining Park and Museum are technically three museums rolled into one, concerning different aspects and eras of the local mining industry, once the area’s livelihood. 

Among the exhibits housed in the iconic Clock Tower, you’ll find a collection of tools, hard hats, historic photographs, and garments that tell a life story in the mines. You can also listen to audio recordings,  watch video presentations, and attend fun workshops that bring you closer to the miners’ experiences. You’ll gain insight into their hard work, sense of brotherhood, and their fight for workers’ rights. 

My daughter couldn’t get enough of this place (we’re both huge fans of NEMO – I shouldn’t be surprised). It’s not the only mining museum I’ve been to, and it’s not like any of them either. This was a genuinely enlightening attraction and the last thing I’d have expected to find in Tuscany.

4. Local Events And Traditions

Abbadia San Salvatore Torch Festival during Christmas
zenitfotovideo.it / Adobe Stock

To truly feel the pulse of this historic town, immerse yourself in its local traditions and events. During our stay, we got to witness them! 

The first was the weekly market, held in the center of town. It’s your typical country farmers’ market with fresh produce, street foods, local crafts, and handiwork.

The main event, however, is the Torch Festival (or Fiaccole di Natale), which lasts most of December and reaches its climax on Christmas Eve. This medieval festival sees the entire town filled with flaming torches and pyres, lighting (and warming) the small town during the holiday season.

The festival will be at its height on December 24th. The square in front of the abbey is ringed with more flaming torches, with one enormous pyre taking center stage. We weren’t in town to see that big boy burn up, but still, it was a great experience seeing some of the local culture in the town.

5. Take A Day Trip To Bagni San Filippo Hot Springs

Visitors relaxing at Fosso Bianco Hot Springs, Italy
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

The next day, we took a 15-minute drive from Abbadia San Salvatore to explore the Bagni San Filippo hot springs. These thermal waters offer a natural spa experience and are free to bathe.

With car keys, we took another scenic journey through the Tuscan countryside. The Fosso Bianco, a majestic outdoor oasis, led us to the grand spectacle of the Balena Bianca, a massive calcium formation shaped over centuries. It looks like something from outer space!

Bagni San Filippo might be small but rich in rustic eateries, complementing a day of geothermal wonder. Check the weather forecast for the springs’ sulfur content, and be kind to the delicate Balena Bianca by not walking all over it!

Read More: Where to Stay in Tuscany

7. Hike To The Top Of Monte Amiata

Aerial view of Abbadia San Salvatore Cemetery in Tuscany.
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

On our last day, we decided to hike up Monte Amiata. The trek from Abbadia San Salvatore to this extinct volcano was a real treat, unveiling expansive views and natural splendor at every step. Here are the details:

  • Start Point: Town center of Abbadia San Salvatore
  • Trail Length: Approximately 10 km round trip
  • Mid Point: Summit of Monte Amiata at 1,738 meters
  • Duration: Expect 4 to 5 hours, depending on your pace
  • End Point: Abbadia San Salvatore

Moderate fitness levels are recommended. The ascent reveals a tapestry of beech and fir trees, with panoramic vistas at the summit—a perfect backdrop for a family photo!

On the way back down to Abbadia San Salvatore, the mountain’s personality shifts, offering new perspectives and a serene end to your day’s adventure. The hike promises an unforgettable experience, marked by the tranquil beauty of Tuscany’s elevated landscapes.

See Related: An Itinerary for Spending 7-10 Days in Italy

8. Dine Well at Local Tuscan Restaurants

Tuscan restaurant SaXa's elegant interior with fine wines and artisanal decor
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

What’s a Tuscan vacation without sampling a little local fare? The charm of Abbadia San Salvatore extends to its culinary offerings.

There are tons of terrific local eateries to enjoy here, mostly using fresh local ingredients and produce. During my family’s vacation, we delved into traditional Italian dining, where each meal seemed to outshine the last.

Lunch breaks were moments of reverence, and the dinner we wolfed down after climbing Monte Amiata was one to remember. This town is home to some of the best homemade cooking I’ve ever tasted anywhere. Highlights were:

  • Pasta: An Italian staple, but each sauce and shape told my tastebuds a different story – nothing beats fresh pasta.
  • Wine: Tuscany’s vines are legendary, and the Chianti game here is top-tier. A glass of local wine is a must to complement your meal.
  • Dessert: From tiramisu to panna cotta, the sweetness of Italy was perfected in every dessert I had in Abbadia.

What is Abbadia San Salvatore Known For?

Quaint cobblestone street in Abbadia San Salvatore, Tuscany
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Abbadia San Salvatore holds the honor of being one of the most distinctive monastic settlements in Tuscany. Its enthralling history, intertwined with the revered Benedictine Abbey of San Salvatore, trails back to the 8th century. This age-old stronghold wasn’t merely an architectural masterpiece but a strategic vanguard controlling the Via Francigena, an ancient road and pilgrimage route.

As centuries passed, the 12th and 13th centuries marked a significant evolution. Following an upsurge in growth, a second set of city walls was sculpted, signifying the rise of the Castelli. Even today, one can witness the timeless charisma of its striped walls, standing tall as a testament to its enduring legacy.

Misty mountain castle near Abbadia San Salvatore, Italy
Kyle Kroeger / ViaTravelers

Evolving still, the village stepped into its third and defining stage. A new entity, the “Borgo,” came into existence.

The final ring of city walls, distinct from its predecessors, was etched into the landscape. This phase cultivated Abbadia San Salvatore’s final symphony in the 13th century.

In this articulate weave of history, the village evolved through three significant stages spanning the 8th to 14th centuries. Each stage etched a new stroke on its canvas, gradually enhancing its allure.

Tuscany Travel Itinerary [Video]

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