Lago degli Idoli: a sacred place of magical charm

At an altitude of 1380 metres, south of the peak of Mount Falterona and a few metres from the source of the Arno, lies an ancient and fascinating place where the bond between nature and humas has deep and complex roots.

A destination for hikers and lovers of ancient history, Lago degli Idoli (Lake of the Idols) is the largest archaeological site in Casentino, the source of one of the most striking testimonies to the cult of the Etruscan world.

This small reservoir, surrounded by oak and elm woods, has ancient origins, dating back to the 6th century BC when the Etruscans chose it as a place of worship and pilgrimage. Situated at the centre of an important communication route that linked the Umbrian-Tuscan Etruria with that of Emilia, pilgrims used to come to this place to throw a votive offering to the gods into its waters, as both banks were considered sacred, and its waters had special beneficial properties.

Since then the first figurine was found in 1838 by a young shepherdess who had taken her flock to water at the lake. Convinced that she had found a statue of the Madonna, perhaps lost by a traveller, she decided to show the object to the priest of the church of Montalto, who, after examining it, realised that he had an Etruscan artefact in his hands. From that moment on, the Lago della Ciliegeta took the name of Lago degli Idoli, and about 600 statuettes were recovered from its waters, along with thousands of Etruscan coins, arrowheads, daggers, spears and pieces of pottery.

The discovered treasure was offered to the Grand Duke of Tuscany, but he failed to appreciate its great historical value and the artefacts were sold on the antique market. In this way, some of the most prestigious museums in the world shared their finds: the British Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, and the Hermitage in St Petersburg, to name but a few. Only a few finds the result of the most recent excavations in 2003-2007, remained on Italian soil and are now kept in the Museo Archeologico del Casentino in Bibbiena.

The Lake of the Idols is a unique place with a centuries-old fascination, whose history reminds us of the importance of preserving and respecting the wonders of our territory because everyone is a guardian of the beauty that surrounds them, and by taking care of it, ensures that the magic of these places can continue to enchant future generations.