HISTORY OF THE TOWNS :
UNDERSTANDING TUFO :
The symbol that unites the cities of Sorano, Sovana and Pitigliano is the Tufo (or Tufa rock) that has always characterized this region and its volcanic origins. Carved into the Tufo, are small caves that were once inhabited by ancient civilizations and are still used today to store farm equipment.
Over the centuries, Tufo has been used by prehistoric civilizations, the Etruscans and those of the Middle Ages to shape the territory and build the necropolises and roads we still see today.
Even the towns themselves were shaped with this rock, which was used to build houses that appeared to be just another part of the impressive cliffs they stand on.
This absolutely enchanting medieval hill town hangs from a tuff stone over the Lente River.
The first historical mentions to Sorano are relative to the 3rd century BC, when it was an Etruscan city under the influence of the more populous nearby Sovana.
From the time when the Romans seized control to the days of the medieval Aldobrandeschi and the rein of Fernando II de ‘Medici, Sorano has always been a city of great prominence and even greater beauty.
Disappearing from history under the Roman domination, it reappears in 862 under the Aldobrandeschi suzerainty. The Aldobrandeschi were the most powerful feudatories of southern Tuscany for more than four centuries, disappearing in 1312 when Margherita, son of Ildibrandino, died without male heirs. His daughter Adelaide married to Romano di Gentile Orsini, who added the city to the family fiefs.
The county of Pitigliano-Sorano fought against the Republic of Siena, but was forced to accept its suzerainty from 1417. It regained a full independence in 1556. It was annexed to the Duchy of Tuscany in 1604 and became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.
Today, the city is one of the three Città del Tufo – a title it has earned thanks the building material that defines its walls, shapes its streets and adds character to its buildings.
With its tufo rock, sharp red rooftops and impressive history, Sorano is the Siena of the Maremma. Only far older and imbued with country charm and authenticity.
There are few towns in the Maremma that have maintained both their history and original elegance as the ancient Etruscan jewel of Sovana. The town’s sand-coloured streets, worn by centuries of usage, its churches, Etruscan sights, splendid buildings and unassuming old centre make this one of the finest, unaltered and beautiful towns in Tuscany.
Sovana is so small, it’s made up of only two streets, but hidden in those two streets are some of the most incredible historical treasures. Its origins are between the 7th and 6th century BC.
During the Bronze Age, the Etruscans shaped Sauna (Sovana) into an artistic and cultural city so inspiring that it was quickly taken over by the Romans, who used it as one of their territorial capitals.
Modern Sovana was built in the Middle Ages under the extremely powerful Aldobrandeschi. Their main contribution was an impressive stone wall that once encircled the entire town. Today few year-round residents live in the town that ensures that it remains, as it was when the Aldobrandeschi and Orsini Counts walked its streets - -a bonus for visitors.
Not to miss: the 11th century Cathedral, the Church of S. Maria Maggiore, Palazzo Pretorio and many Etruscan sites in the nearby countryside, of which the Hildebrand Tomb is the most important.
Not far from Sovana are miles of ancient Etruscan ‘Vie Cave’ roads, necropolises and crumbling settlements once used for religious rites. These and other archaeological sites, concealed in the nearby rolling hills and forests, date back millennia.
Pitigliano is situated 313m above sea level on a fascinating and beautiful Tufo promontory, bounded by green valleys through which the Lente and Meleta Rivers flow.
The Etruscan name is not known. According to an ancient legend, the town was founded by two Romans: Petilio and Celiano. The name of Pitigliano would have been derived by the combination of their names.
It is a breathtaking experience every time one drives the country roads and there, waiting around the curve, is this stupendous medieval town overhanging a steep hill made of stone.
Pitigliano and its area were inhabited in Etruscan times, but the first written mention of Pitigliano dates only to 1061. In the early 13th century it belonged to the Aldobrandeschi family, and by the middle of the century it had become the capital of the surrounding county.
In 1293 the county passed to the Orsini family, which signalled the start of 150 years of on-again, off-again wars with Siena, at the end of which, in 1455, a compromise of sorts was reached: Siena acknowledged the status of county to Pitigliano, which, in exchange, placed herself under the suzerainty of Siena.
One of the interesting and unique aspects of Pitigliano was that from possibly medieval times but definitely from the end of the fifteenth century it was home to Italian Jews and rapidly became an important refuge center for them in central Italy.
Jewish families were able to live more freely and engage in business activities. They began with, as moneylenders and quickly become bankers to the ruling Orsinis. Their social positions and living conditions were equal to their Christian fellow citizens.
A slow and constant immigration of Jews from towns in the region soon took place quickly transforming Pitigliano into the most important Jewish community in the Maremma - -so much so that this very lovely small town was called “Little Jerusalem”. The extraordinary relationship between Christians and Jews was definitely cemented by a particular episode in 1799, when the people and the majority of Christians defended the Israelites from the bullying anti-French military that wanted to sack the Jewish homes.
The racial laws and persecution of the last World War accelerated the end of the community. Nevertheless, during the war, many Jews were saved thanks to the generous protection of the local population who, despite the risks, offered hospitality, refuge and assistance.
There are very few Jews now in Pitigliano however, the old relationship continues in other forms: from the restoration and conservation of Jewish monuments (the Synagogue, the ritual bath, kosher cellar, kosher butcher, the unleavened bread bakery, the dye-works, the cemetery and the Jewish museum) to the production of Kosher wine in the Pitigliano Cooperative Cellars and the foundation of the Association “Little Jerusalem,” whose goal is the promotion of initiatives for the recognition and appreciation of the Pitigliano story.