Hidden treasures

Pitigliano, the little Jerusalem

Historical Curiosities

Pitigliano, the little Jerusalem

Pitigliano is a delightful village in the Maremma area of Tuscany, perched on a block of tufa that is seamlessly replicated in the peculiar village’s buildings resting on it. The ancient stones of the narrow alleys and houses have witnessed vicissitudes that are lost in the ancient origins of this town. Surely the peaceful coexistence between Christians and Jews is one of the most beautiful events in the history of Pitigliano. The name that still distinguishes this pleasurable village can be attributed to this coexistence: 'the little Jerusalem'.

You just have to wander round the village to see the signs of the Jewish presence, evidenced by such buildings as the Synagogue - rebuilt in 1995 after the one erected in 1598 had collapsed - the premises where once was the kosher butchery and the bakery where matzo used to be baked. But there is more to it! Just think that kosher wine is still produced in a local wine cellar!

The relationship between Jews and Pitigliano, however, has very ancient roots. It seems that the small Tuscan village first welcomed Jews in the 15th century, even if the community’s size increased considerably following the restrictions resulting from the Pope edicts of 1555 and 1569 and the decrees of the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1570 and 1571. Since Pitigliano was one of the few places untouched by such measures, from this moment on the chapter of the beautiful coexistence between Jews and Christians as two perfectly integrated communities came into being.

This is demonstrated by the celebration called 'The night of the Orvietani' that took place until a few years ago, in memory of an episode in 1799, when all the inhabitants, as well as the village’s rulers, rose in defence of the Jews from the cruelties of the anti-French military that wanted to loot the ghetto. This celebration is still vivid in Elena Servi’ memories, born in 1930, one of the last Jews remaining in Pitigliano. She also remembers the dark period of the Nazi racial laws and when she was forced to abandon Pitigliano with her family. Fortunately, a bunch of young people have founded an association that promotes Jewish culture and is aptly called 'Little Jerusalem', thanks to which it is possible to visit the Synagogue, the Jewish Museum and other places in the ghetto.

A beautiful and fascinating story, don’t you think? Do you want to discover some more? Then visit our section on the

Villages of Tuscany and choose one of the tours that, combining history, art, tradition and good food, will make lead to the discovery of many tales, anecdotes and interesting facts about these wonderful gems.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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