In the middle of a wood stands a centuries-old complex, a mysterious and fascinating place. The Municipality of Montieri is surrounded by these woods, home to the hidden remains of a church shaped like a flower with six petals. It’s unique in the world. The whole complex, once linked to metal extraction, was both a place of worship and a political stronghold. The site, still at the centre of archaeological and historical excavations, never ceases to unearth mysteries and marvels, including the Montieri Fibula, a singular and invaluable gem that was discovered right here. (It’s currently on display in Siena City Gallery).
It was in these shady and obscure woods that some of the earliest words of the Italian language were uttered, a piece of trivia not known by many. Traces of this episode can be found in Volterra’s Diocese Archive, which is home to the “Carta di Travale”, an 1158 parchment containing one of the earliest uses of vernacular Italian. One of the interpretations of the text, which appears to allude to a fragment of life in the old monastery, focuses on Manfredo, who speaks, the custodian hellbent on warning those around him: “Guard, being a guard is bad for you! I only eat a few crumbs!” Another take on the text is that Manfredo is discussing and arguing with the guards: “Guard, being a guard is bad for you. I don’t eat crumbs!” Others view these words as the beginning of a jolly rhythm, while others think that Manfredo disguised in these words his unease to suggest to his superiors who, given his poverty, was unhappy to be a guard, to the extent that, having got the hint, was relieved of his duties…
The woods are home to riches other than monasteries, jewels and historical tales: chestnuts, for example! In the autumn, as you walk through this forest you hear them crispen, crushed, beneath your feet. Since the beginning of time, chestnuts have been used to make a flour of exceptional quality. It’s no coincidence that last year a prize was introduced in the hamlet of Boccheggiano for the best chestnut flour in the whole of Italy!.
The woods of Montieri, part of the UNESCO Tuscan Mining Geopark, which has one of the highest levels of geodiversity in the world, vaunt a huge variety of unique rocks and minerals. Walk along the trails and see the centuries-old mining tunnels, from which silver-bearing rocks were extracted dating to ancient times, a crucial resource for our castle during the Middle Ages.
The wild nature, the smells, glimpses and slow pace of life are still very much part of our area. The secret of wellbeing is living in harmony with one’s surroundings. An environment with a rich subsoil that continues to be harnessed today thanks to geothermal steam. Montieri is heated entirely by natural steam, which is even used in greenhouses to power the local nursery gardening economy.