As you drive along the road 74 “Maremmana”, coming from the direction of Manciano, suddenly after the curve you will see Pitigliano, standing on top of steep tufa rock and surrounded on three sides by ravines and caves cut into the tufa rocks.
Pitigliano is one of the most beautiful art towns in Tuscany, with monuments from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. It is also known as the “little Jerusalem” because of its large Jewish community, which settled there from the 16th century.
You should stop after the curve in front of the Sanctuary of the Madonna delle Grazie to grasp the extraordinary beauty of this town.
The Jewish district, the Synagogue, the Ghetto, the old Unleavened Bread Oven, and the Jewish Cemetery are clear signs that the town was home to a large Jewish population.
An additional sign was the fact that one of the first telegraph offices in the Maremma was opened in Pitigliano to let the Jewish merchants know the daily prices in the main markets.
The Synagogue was almost entirely rebuilt in 1995, after the collapse in the sixties following the due abandonment to the extinction of the local Jewish community.
An ancient monastery dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, the Orsini Fortress became the Aldobrandeschi Castle in the middle of the 13th century. The fortress was inherited by the Orsini, along with the whole county of Sovana, after the wedding between Romano Orsini and Anastasia Aldobrandeschi in 1293.
The Orsini ruled over it until 1608, when it fell definitively under the domain of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.
It is almost unbelievable that Sovana, a tiny architectural delight and a little more than a one-street village, was the main site of a large county in the past and the birthplace of a pope, born Hildebrand and later named Pope Gregory VII.
The remains of the Aldobrandeschi Castle mark the entrance to the town: the castle’s door leads to via del Pretorio and to the main square.
Piazza del Pretorio, with its original herringbone brick-paved road; the Architect’s Clock Tower (Torre dell’Architetto) (12th-13th centuries) with the old clock, still working, that marks out time according to an elaborate set of weights; the Pretorio Palace with its Loggia del Capitano decorated with the coats of arms of noble families; the Church of St. Mary (12th-13th centuries) which houses an exceptional pre-Romanesque ciborium, a unique piece in Tuscany.
Sorano, the oldest tufa village that rises on a rocky spur, Sasso Leopoldino, as if it were hanging in a precarious balance. The spur overlooks a panoramic view that can be accessed thanks to stairs carved in the tufa. The town is characterized by a labyrinth of narrow streets, courtyards, little arches, outside stairs, porches, and basements where in the past the various winemaking phases were carried out. Today, most of them are used by their owners, except for certain ones that have been made accessible to everyone.
The area is dominated by the outstanding Orsini Fortress, which became the Aldobrandeschi Castle in the Middle Ages, and was enlarged in the middle of the 16th century.