Abbadia San Salvatore is a town of about 7,000 people, 70 km south of Sienna and west of the Autostrada and railway from Florence to Rome. It was founded in the mid-8th century, and takes its name from an important Benedictine monastery. It is situated on the eastern slopes of Mount Amatio, an extinct volcano that rises to a 1738 m high summit that is crowned by a colossal iron cross, erected in 1910. The mountain was one of Europe’s riches sources of cinnabar, the mineral from which mercury is obtained. While there is evidence of mining from prehistoric times onwards, large-scale workings took place between 1897 and the early 1970s, when cinnabar was extracted from both adits and shafts, and processed in the vicinity.
The centre of the mining museum is a building topped by a clock tower that was formerly the administrative centre, where mineral specimens, tools and photographs are displayed, but the surrounding area has been turned into a park museum of mining, and visitors are able to tour one of the galleries on a narrow gauge railway train.