Those who arrive at Abbadia San Salvatore – after a two hour from Florence and just over an hour from Siena, – are amazed by the particular appearance of the of the village which is much larger than one might have thought when considering its distance from major settlements and its elevation.
The old ancient village has been incorporated into the mining village, characterized by workers’ houses and buildings of the mining company; the City hall, in neo-Gothic style, connects the new town, behind the building, with the ancient village, whose truly medieval houses face the neo-medieval façade built in the twenties (1920s).
The site is surrounded by a dense chestnut forest, which climbs up the mountain; down the valley, the forest gives way to fields up to the broad riverbed of the Paglia, a huge wild and almost always dry torrent. The flocks of sheep of the Sardinian shepherds, who for decades have settled in these desert countryside, often graze in this place.
Mining activity, which began at the turn of the past (XIX) century, has for decades attracted the population to Abbadia from surrounding villages. So, while these ones were depopulated, the mining town grew to become the largest urban center of the province, after Siena.
Even electric lighting arrived early to Abbadia, thanks to the powerhouse which was already fueling the mine; so, at night the once richer settlements in the valley floor looked up at this illuminated small town, that was once one of the most isolated and inaccessible villages on the mountain.
At the end of the nineteenth century the progress myth reached its zenith: the mine, a real foreign power which was bearer of progress, modified in a few years the old social stratification: a nation of small and medium landowners who cultivated a difficult mountain land was transformed into a mining town.
Within a few years the very fine mesh that distinguishes the society of mountain-based rural settlements disappeared and the complex social stratification of the past gave way to the uniform demographic composition so characteristic of all industrialized countries and especially of the mining villages. In addition to owners and peasants, artisans disappeared, leaving the field to an overwhelming majority of miners and some employees.
Everything revolved around the mine and its master, the Società Mercurifera Monte Amiata (Monte Amiata Quicksilver Company).
Taken from “Parco Nazionale Museo delle Miniere dell’Amiata” – Edizioni Effigi