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TUSCANY & MORE » Pitigliano & Sovana

PITIGLIANO & ITS WINE (click here for TRUFFLE HUNTING)

When you see Pitigliano, it's like turning the pages of a book of fairy tales set in the Middle Ages.

The town is built on a promontory surrounded by bright green valleys, grooved by the Lente and Meleta rivers.

The high tufa cliffs are chiselled with a thousand caves and tower-houses. The houses are built on a tufaceous drum in the same jutting vertical as the sheer cliffs which make the city wall almost superfluous.

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This, however, in no way detracts from the splendid military structures such as the 13th Orsini palace. The town takes pride in its heritage: the Prehistoric period, with its tombs discovered along the city wall and in the surrounding area; the Roman period that left behind the town's name, Gens Petilia; the Medieval period of the Aldobrandeschi, lords of the Maremma for almost five hundred years; the Renaissance grandeur brought by the noble Roman family, the Orsini; and, after a brief Sienese interlude, the Medici and their heirs, the Lorraine who stimulated a phase of modernization.

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Another key to the appreciation of Pitigliano is the famous Jewish ghetto. This extraordinary town has been called "Little Jerusalem" because of its large and active Jewish population which settled there beginning in the 15th century. Today the Sinagogue is once again open to the public, both for worship and a visit, after extensive restoration.The interesting Jewish Cemetery, the unleavened bread oven, the cellar carvedinto the rock where Kosher wine is produced, the Kosher butcher, the cleansing baths for women and the cleaners are all open to the public.

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SOVANA

Sovana, 8km north of Pitigliano, is now a village with little more than a single street running from the castle ruins to the cathedral.

It is in a beautiful position on a ridge overlooking a wide panorama. It is traditionally reputed to be the birthplace of Hildebrand, later Pope Gregory VII (1026/8-85).

An important Etruscan settlement and later a Roman municipium, Sovana became a bishopric in the 5C. Its period of greatest importance was in the 13C when it was the seat of the Sovana branch of the Aldobrandeschi family after it had separated from the Santa Fiora branch. It then passed under the Orsini and was conquered by Siena in 1410.

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Attempts to repopulate the village under subsequent Medici rule were doomed on account of malaria. At the entrance to the village are the impressive ruins of the Aldobrandeschi castle (13C-14C) and remains of the Etruscan walls. Facing onto the small brick piazza is the former Palazzo del Comune, dating from the 12C with a clock and bell-cot, which has been the local archive since the 17C.

To the right is the Palazzo Pretorio, which was largely rebuilt by Siena in the 15C and has nine coats of arms of the Sienese governors on the facade. On the adjacent Loggia del Capitano is a large Medici coat of arms carved in marble. On the opposite side of the piazza is the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.

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At the end of the village, in a stone-flagged piazza surrounded by cypresses, is the Romanesque cathedral of Santi Pietro e Paolo. The original church was probably begun during the papacy of Gregory VII, but its present structure is thought to date from the 12C-13C.

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For more detailed information about the tours, please send an e-mail to info@umbriaintour.it