The Monte Labbro Nature Reserve is one of those places that even the most disenchanted spirits cannot leave indifferent. On this mountain, which seems to have been created to never connect with the rest of the surrounding landscape, the events of Davide Lazzaretti, “the peasant prophet” as he’s been defined, have come to life out of limestone rock in the noblest Tuscany.
The Wildlife Park
The reserve is located in the municipality of Arcidosso, in the province of Grosseto, protected by the Tuscany region, and includes the Monte Amiata and Monte Labbro Wildlife Park.
The wildlife park was created to protect the animal species and those of the flora, typical of the area, especially fallow deer, roe deer, red deer, mouflons, and Apennine wolves, animals that live in a habitat made up of chestnut woods, Turkey oaks, maples, and scrubs. Hawthorn, broom, juniper, and lime, meadows of Etruscan violets, and wild thistles abound.
Along with wild animals, other species also find space in the park such as your typical Tuscan farm animals like horses, chickens, rabbits, ducks, and the “Amiatini Micci”, a breed of small local donkeys, with a distinctive cross on their gray coat.
These cute animals can be encountered if you decide to ascend to Monte Labbro, the other protagonist of the Reserve. Monte Labbro is 1,193 meters high, a spur of limestone in stark contrast to Monte Amiata, its only opponent on the horizon. The rest of the landscape, the hills of the provinces of Siena and Grosseto, the Tuscan Maremma, and also those of Lazio, which like the sea, from the top of Labbro seem just a few steps away.
On the slopes of Labbro, there are cultivated fields and wild landscape that seems impossible to tame.
Monte Amiata can be admired very well from the top of Labbro and is green with its chestnut and beech woods, even during a torrid summer.
Yet man has managed to live on this small mountain. Nowadays, you can only see a few farms scattered in the countryside but another story can be learned by visiting the David Lazzaretti Study Center, which has its museum headquarters in the Aldobrandesco Castle of Arcidosso. It tells of courageous shepherds and farmers who inhabited this land over the centuries.
Davide Lazzaretti himself lived in this harsh land. He was the son of a “carter” from Arcidosso and, like his father, embarked on this job as a transporter of goods between Monte Amiata and the surrounding areas. There was a great need during the second half of the 19th century to procure goods in places that were far from the main communication routes. This was his life before he became the “Christ of Amiata”- a prophet, a visionary. A man who lived his faith in an extreme sense and who because of it, met his death on the soil of his country during a procession of his “people”.
The Catholic faith in him came to life with very profound visions and thoughts, which led him to the foundation of a new religious and social perspective. Thus he founded the Giurisdavidica Church, a community in which sharing and collective peasant work were managed by a group of equal men and women. This did not fail to frighten and alarm the central Church of Rome and hence the beginning of the end for Lazzaretti, up to the most tragic epilogue.
Even today, on the night of August 14th, the last few followers of his church sect go to the mountain and celebrate mass. They have a small procession, the last excerpts of an ancient rite of fire at the top of the rugged mountain where the ruins of a chapel, a school, and a tower still stand linking the pagan traditions of the countryside to the religious liturgy.
A Mystical Place
Monte Labbro is a mystical place. It has a solitary air and even the plants and animals that inhabit it seem to have the same aura of mystery around them. In the silence of the walk that leads from the parking lot to the Giurisdavidica tower, you can meet not only the placid Amiata Micci, but you can also spot birds of prey such as Kites or Buzzards, whose silence furrow the sky scanning the stony ground in search of some small prey. The flowers you encounter are thorny yet beautiful; they resist the summer heat, like the cold winds that whip the slope in winter.
But this reserve is also worth a night visit, if for the bravest the hope is to meet one of the wild wolves that populate the area, for others, there is an even greater draw. With their eyes towards the sky, they admire one of the most incredible sights of this place- the stars.
In fact, located in the middle of the province of Grosseto, the Monte Labbro massif offers the possibility to admire an almost completely dark sky, the city below is not large enough to create any light interference.
The quantity of stars that can be admired from up here is amazing and so it’s not surprising that, here, the spirit rises above earthly things and comes to touch the divine.
Photo gallery and article by Valentina Bottinelli