Pitigliano is a stunning small town perching on the top of an abrupt tuff promontory above the Lente and the Meleta River, encircled by intense green valleys covered by the wild vegetation which typifies the inlands areas of the Maremma territory.
The town rises at 313 metres above the sea level and is located in southern Tuscany, in the west of Grosetto province, bordering the Latio region, at 50 kliometres from the Maremma coast.
Since the Prehistory the very high tuff cliffs have been eroded by the adjacent rivers, forming a large amount of deep caves. On the top of the organic promontory there is a plateau where the town rises, so the medieval tower-houses bordering it give the impression of being emerging from the cliffs. The canyons surrounding Pitigliano to the north, south and west sides set up a real citadel. To bring to an end the fortress created by the nature, a fortified wall was constructed on the east side of the town.
There is no doubt about the important and long presence of the Etruscans in Pitigliano.
The abundant deep caves, the covered paths and cave-tombs which they cut into the volcanic rock demonstrate that the town was a main Etruscan centre. The surroundings of Pitigliano are also plenty of archaeological sites, from the ancient carved covered paths to the remains of several settlements and necropolis. Later, the Romans replaced the Etruscan. The main archaeological traces left by this latter civilization are the numerous niches they constructed under the houses to arrange there the related funerary urns. Since old-ages, these niches have being utilized as cellars.
Nevertheless the first historical records of the town come back from 1061, it is known that the powerful Longobard Aldobrandeschi family administrated Pitigliano and all the Maremma territory from the IX century until the ending of the 13th. Then the town was conquered by the Orsini family, one of the most ancient dynasties of Rome. The wars against the Republic of Siena started immediately after and they were on for more than a century and a half, until 1455, when Siena accepted that the citadel was a county. In spite of this, a compromise had to be reached and the citadel passed under the administration of Siena until 1569, when Pitigliano was integrated in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, governed at the age by Cosimo I de Medici. After the extinction of the Medici dynasty, when the Grand Duchy of Tuscany passed to the Habsburg- Lorraine dynasty, Pitigliano went into an age of growth, which was substantially intensified after the adhesion of Tuscany to the Unification of Italy, in 1859.
But the most interesting part of the history of Pitigliano is related to the settlement of a dense Jewish community, which started in the 16th century because of the Jewish persecution in Rome and other territorial areas in Italy, mainly due to the religious intolerance established by the Counter- Reformation.
The Jewish community reached in Pitigliano the 10% of the population. As a result, the town was known as the “Little Jerusalem”. The relationship between the gentiles and the Jewish minority was fine and really advantageous for each other. The Jewish brought to the area some important cultural and social advances, like the Jewish University of Pitigliano, as well as their contribution in the economy and the development of the town.
Owing to the Jewish massacres and deportations during the WWII, nowadays only a few Jews remain in the town, though a good number of them were saved or tried to be save by the people of Pitigliano and the one of the contiguous villages, when Italy was occupied by the German Army, risking their lives hiding and helping them to escape from the Nazis.
Pitigliano accurately preserves the main Jewish monuments. Most of them have been reconstructed, like the Synagogue, the Kosher oven (known as the “Forno di Asimo”) and the Jewish Cemetery, in order to give them back the serene appearance they had for centuries.
Furthermore than by its wonderful ambience, the winding medieval streets, the peculiar perched houses and monuments, Pitigliano is celebrated by its delicious gastronomy and the “Bianco di Pitigliano”, one of the most renowned white wines produced in the Maremma territory.
What to visit in Pitigliano:
- The Orsini Castle. The impressive fortress stands at the entrance of the old citadel close to a superb medieval aqueduct.
- The Archaeological Museum. It is hosted in the Orsini Castle and preserves a good collection of Etruscan findings.
- Vie Cave. All the area of Pitigliano is surrounded by old paths with walls more than 10 metres from top to bottom excavated into the enormous tuff rock by the Etruscan. They run down from the outside of the town to the valleys below and have been used for centuries as lines of communication. The most impressive of them probably is Via Cava of San Giuseppe, which runs from Pitigliano to Sovana.
- The Jewish Ghetto. It is located in the old town, passing the tunnel on Via Zuccarelli. The ancient Jewish quarter hosts a gorgeous Synagogue, a museum of Jewish culture, and old bakery, a kosher butcher’s and different characteristic workshops.
- The Duomo. The Cathedral, devoted to St. Paul and St.Peter, is located in Piazza San Gregorio. It was built in the early 15th century and preserves the original huge Romanesque bell tower, while the façade was later rebuilt into Baroque style. The interior houses two splendid altarpieces painted by the famous Rococo artist, Francesco Zuccarelli (Pitigliano, 1702- Florence, 1788) as well as other fine artworks.
- Where to eat:
- Osteria “Il Tufo Allegro” (Vicolo della Costituzione, 2): A beautiful resturant built in the volcanic rock. The ambience of the lower floor is really fabulous. The restaurant is suggested by the “Michelin” and the “Gambero Rosso” food guides. The cuisine, great and refined, is based on the best recipes of the Maremma. Wine cellar is excellent.
A full meal, home wine included, is about 40/50 € per person.
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