Seggiano is a little medieval hilltown on the slopes of Monte Amiata, in the province of Grosseto. Visitors will walk among gems of art and architecture, and among the green and silver of the olive trees that have historically set down roots here, yielding an olive oil whose fame stretches far beyond the borders of Tuscany.
Seggiano marks the threshold between the gentle undulations of the Val d'Orcia and the more mountainous landscape of the Amiata area; but its fame rests with the native olive cultivar to which it has given its name, the Olivastra seggianese. These cultivar is highly prized, widely known, and produces the extra-virgin olive oil Seggiano DOP
One of Seggiano's main attractions is the Olivo nel Cisternone, a scientific installation that represents not only a prime example of the Olivastra seggianese cultivar, but is also the largest plant in the world to be sustained by aeroponic technology. The roots of the plant are suspended inside what used to be the town's water cistern, and are fed by water vapour and vaporized nutrients. The installation makes up part of a larger project started in collaboration with neurobiologist Stefano Mancuso, who is known the world over for his studies on the intelligence of vegetable life.
The suspended olive tree is also the starting point for a walk around the Olive Oil Museum, a "diffused museum" that winds through the town centre. Among the many stops along the trail, it is most definitely worth visiting the old olive press and oil house, where you can take part in a Seggianese DOP tasting session.
A stroll around the town also takes you to the neogothic town hall, where the parish church of San Bartolomeo spears the sky. Originally built in the Middle Ages and rebuilt in the 1930s, the church is home to a polyptych of the Madonna and Child enthroned with St Bartholomew, St Michael and St John the Baptist. Further along, you will find the church of Corpus Domini, which is dedicated not only to the Body of Christ but also to St Bernardino of Siena. Here you will find a Madonna and Child from the late fourteenth century and a reliquary that belonged to St Bernardino himself.
Not far from the town centre you come across the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Carità. The sanctuary, which contains beautiful paintings and frescos, was built around the end of the sixteenth century to propitiate a severe famine. An ornate façade and a brick dome in four segments - the shape of which recalls that of Brunelleschi's iconic dome on the Florence cathedral - is particularly impressive. Even closer to the residential area, you find the little church of San Rocco, which was built in 1486 and is home to interesting frescos: sadly, these have been scrawled with names and graffiti.
An enticing road leaves Seggiano and leads you to a stupendous view of the town and the dark mass of Monte Amiata. It continues to the Castello del Potentino, via the celebrated "Olive Valley". The castle, which is sadly closed to visitors, is surrounded by cultivated fields. A little further on you find the ruins of the Colombaio convent, where San Bernardino da Siena passed his novitiate.
Finally, at a short distance from the town, the Daniel Spoerri Garden is a must-see for lovers of contemporary art. This little corner of nature contains an array of haunting sculptures, all inspired by the relationship between man and the natural world.
Seggiano's flagship product is of course the Seggiano DOP extra virgin olive oil, extracted from the Olivastra seggianese olives. This green oil, tinged with hints of golden yellow, has a fresh, fruity aroma. Its flavours and fragrance exalt the taste of salads and legumes in vegetarian first courses, but it is equally at home with game.