You can find images of Pitigliano everywhere: whenever you looked for picturesque villages you surely came across a picture of Pitigliano in Italy, and a large part of the photo will also be of a large impressive tufa rock that supports the small Tuscan town, a postcard that you are guaranteed to find in the best collections.
To visit Pitigliano and around is a must, after the tufa there is the white of Pitigliano, which is not a valuable marble, The Torciata of St. Joseph, the Pitigliano Synagogue in Tuscany, the quarried streets of Pitigliano, the Castle of Pitigliano and so on.
Things to do in Pitigliano is therefore the least of the problems for visitors. It is located at the easternmost corner of the Province of Grosseto, 60 kilometres from the most famous and beautiful beaches of Grosseto, and 40 kilometres from Lake Bolsena in the Lazio region. The town of Pitigliano seems to be hiding in the south of Maremma, where it is more wild and fascinating.
Certainly it is resting on a rock cliff that already makes a wonderful place but, before giving our recommendations on what to do in Pitigliano, we would like to refer to the Pitigliano history.
The town of Pitigliano is Etruscan and, before that, it was perhaps Neolithic but the name was given to it by the Roman Gens Petilia who took root here. In the late Middle Ages it was is linked to the Aldobrandeschi family until 1290, but in plain sight on the rock from right down the road is the Palazzo Orsini, Pitigliano named after the family who instead gave it glory and dominion, to the point that the town of Pitigliano became episcopal at the expense of the neighbouring Sovana.
Pitigliano Tuscany in Italy is in effect, a bell tower between the bell towers, it never accepted the lure of nearby Siena but the Orsini family in 1574 had to submit to the Florentine Medici, giving away the Fortress of Pitigliano, for the repayment of a debt.
In 1604 this wonderful village in Tuscany was annexed to the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando I dci. Since that time, however, not all turned in the right direction and Pitigliano lost power and pride and had to nearly wait until the mid-18th century, when the Lorena family came to power (1737) in Tuscany, to relive pomp, parties and the revival of its economic activity.
Visiting Pitigliano is all this but there is also one more thing, a piece of Pitigliano Italy history that helped it to acquire its name: “Pitigliano Little Jerusalem”. Until the end of the 15th century there were many small Jewish communities around the territory of Maremma, but more in Pitigliano. Over the years the population increased by welcoming Jews fleeing persecution in the Papal States (1555 - 1569) and the Grand Duke of Tuscany (1570-1571).
The Jewish Community grew so much that a Pitigliano Italy Synagogue was erected in 1589 dedicated to Rabbi Leone on Saturday. The Pitigliano Jewish Ghetto was the nerve centre of the town and a great example of peaceful coexistence between different faiths and positive to the point that, in 1799, the Christian majority in Pitigliano arose and drove away the anti-French soldiers, who had occupied Pitigliano, and wanted to perpetrate persecution against the local Jews.
Let’s walk to the top of the 16th century walls in Piazza Petruccioli to enter Pitigliano from the eastern gate, which boasts an Orsini coat of arms carved on its top. The walk from here leads to the two main squares: at the first, Republic Square, ignore the two beautiful fountains at the sides and go directly to the Renaissance Palazzo Orsini of Pitigliano which dominates the view. Enter it, and go around the many rooms and, when you have become tired of going up and down through its doors and staircases and stopped imagining what life was like in there in the olden days and how many courtiers there let ladies go first (things that people in Tuscany do a lot from village to village till they drop), move to the Museum of Sacred Art: the Madonna and Child (1410 A.D.) by Jacopo della Quercia which you studied in school is closer than you think!
You are advised to touch the side of the Palazzo Orsini with its fifteen large arches - two large ones and thirteen small ones – which you will have seen from the street below. You might have thought it was some kind of fortification or devotion building. But no, it is the aqueduct built by one of the Orsini members- Gian Francesco Orsini, for those who want to remember - between 1543 and 1545. Very beautiful.
If you are convinced that the Pitigliano Italy history and its monuments finish here proceed along the course to Piazza Gregorio VII, a narrow square, dominated on the left by the Baroque cathedral of the 16th century and in front of you admire the Progeny Orsini Monument dated 1490.
If you have in mind the idea that you need to breath in the Pitigliano history, feel its legacy under your fingers, then maybe you will understand a little more about the villages of Tuscany and, in particular, Pitigliano. For an enjoyable walk start from Piazza Gregory VII to the western districts. Enter the Capisotto quarter, between medieval staircases and small crevices, the arches and narrow lanes, all in stone, rock and tasting of Pitigliano Maremma, Aldobrandeschi or Orsini, because even the streets in this corner of Pitigliano recall the names of those families during those years. A the end of the Capisotto district, where ancient alleys are found, there is the Church of Santa Maria, the oldest in Pitigliano (dating back to the 13th century). It has three naves on a trapeze plan and underwent several structural changes until the 16th century.
Going back on to the low road, you are now in Via Zuccarelli and there is another historic district, the Pitigliano Jewish Ghetto, the heart of Pitigliano Little Jerusalem, where you find the Pitigliano Synagogue of Tuscany, the oven for unleavened bread, the Pitigliano Jewish cemetery, shops and rooms often built directly into the rock, and often since the time of the Etruscans.
Pitigliano is the town of the tufa rock but also of Bianco di Pitigliano DOC because the vineyards you see in the surrounding countryside are the basis of one of the few white wines of Tuscany that can counter the dominance of the great red wines of this land.
Bianco di Pitigliano is a DOC wine whose specification speaks of Trebbiano and Chardonnay grapes, it reaches 12° of alcohol by volume and is presented with the classic straw yellow colour, the taste is a different elegant taste with pleasant fruity notes and a decidedly mineral end note.
It should perhaps be tasted during the Pitigliano Wine Festival (diVino September) and its "open cellars" days that take place the first week of September in the centre of the underground village. Pitigliano in fact also boasts an underground city! It is a maze of small rooms and large rock-cut underground, often the result of rooms that had already been created by digging the rock over many centuries, such as stables, Etruscan tombs, ancient houses and underground barns. The first room of the typical wine cellar of Pitigliano is the "cellaro", then comes a deep gorge cut into the tufa rock which contain the barrels.
The things to do and local festivals in Pitigliano include the Torciata of St Giuseppe. Launched many centuries ago, it is said to date back to Etruscan times, as a rite of the arrival of Spring, the Torciata was a Christian rite during the medieval period when it was set to take place during the day of St. Giuseppe. On the night of the spring equinox a group of Pitigliano inhabitants in traditional costumes go up to the square preceded by a statue of St. Giuseppe and set fire to a huge bonfire. The flames rise to the sky and illuminate the new warm season.
To visit Pitigliano, as you can see, has a thousand reasons, and one in particular: the Sfratto. A typical cake of Pitigliano made from nuts, honey, candied citrus peel, and nutmeg wrapped in a soft dough, the Sfratto of Goym is one of the most famous sweets of Grosseto and brings us back to the Jewish tradition.
The story tells of the many Jews who, to escape persecution of Cosimo II de Medici, who wanted to lock them up in the ghettos of only a few large cities, took refuge in the Maremma. This cake was created to represent the Jews driven from their homes by the gendarmes of the Medici who with a stick called "sfratto", pounded on the door of the houses and commanded that they were abandoned by the Jewish residents. The mixture of tastes and traditions of people from Tuscany Maremma and the Jews who joined them has created other dishes typical of Pitigliano, like beef stew, potatoes and tomato called "tegamata", soup with lentils called "soup of Esau" and risotto with artichokes.
However, it is important to note that the Jewish community of Pitigliano became almost extinct during the persecutions in Italy in the 30s. The citizens of Jewish origin were in fact transferred to the bigger cities in Tuscany and we just hope only there... they had survived the centuries of troubled history but unfortunately nothing could against the fury and madness of our ‘civilized’ 20th century.
We have tasted the flavour of history, we understand what to do in Pitigliano, now let’s choose three destinations from around Pitigliano to be visited. Three is a nice number ad we will stick to it, but the possible destinations would be many more..
"Around Pitigliano number one" are the Vie Cave (Carved Streets) in Pitigliano. These are 15 real caves carved into the tufa, located just underneath the town, up to twenty metres deep and three or four metre wide, hundreds of metres long, and walking them will leave you with a special feeling. We are not sure what these caves were used for by the ancient populations that dug them out: sacrificial rites? Escape or defense routes? Walking one of these called Fratenuti takes us in the direction of Sovana, a beautiful small town just eight kilometres from Pitigliano, a walk marked on trekking maps of Tuscany.
The “town number two" amongst the things to do is a visit to Pitigliano Sovana, a lovely little village with a castle, a Cathedral, an Archaeological Park of the Tufa City and an Etruscan necropolis that should not be missed.
A special mention is deserved, however, by the "number three", the outdoor Alberto Manzi Archaeological Museum which is divided into three sections providing lots of information about the Etruscan, Jewish and the local civilizations. This educational tour includes archaeological finds and historical representations, knowledge paths and islands of antiquity. It is a particular and simple experience that will get you in contact with the area and its history in an intuitive and enjoyable manner.
Visiting Pitigliano is a wonderful adventure. Castles, history, Pitigliano wine and sweets, stories of persecution and glories, of small stone lanes and alleys. But if you want to really experience Pitigliano Maremma try engaging with the locals, walk with someone and breathe in Tuscany.
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