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A Guide to the Perfect Weekend in Pitigliano in Southern Tuscany, Italy

Updated on December 8, 2013

Pitigliano

Pitigliano
Pitigliano | Source

Pitigliano


The town of Pitigliano suddenly looms at you across a ravine as you drive through the wooded hills of Southern Tuscany. Straddling atop the plateau of 'tufo', Pitigliano strikes you initially as surreal - as a movie set for a medieval film, strong, ragged ancient. Yet as you twist through woods of Etruria towards it, crossing a carriage bridge over the river Lente the history of the town intrigues you. It's been standing there for thousands of years. Beneath the ground a network of Etruscan paths and caves still conceal routes that once linked Pitigliano to Rome.

Here is a guide to the perfectly fascinating weekend in Pitigliano in Southern Tuscany where you may wander through thousands of years of history, eat wonderful meals in local trattorias, and recoup in the open-air, natural springs spa of Saturnia. Included in this article you can find information on

  • A brief history of Pitigliano from Neolithic times until more recently
  • Wander round the Palazzo Orsini and the museums of the town in pictures
  • Visit the narrow streets of Little Jerusalem, a Jewish ghetto - since the Jewish people moved here in the 17th century
  • Read the poem next to the bronze statue of a man and his donkey 'Il Villano' by Italo Funghi.
  • Local hotels and bed and breakfast houses, also called 'agritourismi'

A Cellar Cut into the Tufo Rock in Little Jerusalem in Pitigliano

Source

Ancient History of Pitigliano


Once an Etruscan center (VIII BC until VI BC) it was probably called Catetra.

The Etruscan, the Roman and the Medieval epochs all left their traces which you can feel and see and find out more about in the labyrinth of little streets inside the city center, in the museums and underneath in the pockmarked tufo butte where each of the inhabiting civilizations dug tunnels, wells, tombs, 'cantinas' and even dovecots, creating a city under a city.

Pitigliano hasn't changed for centuries. There are no modern outcrops, no post war housing estates or supermarkets, no suburbia or town extension. You stumble upon Pitigliano and root directly into the past.

Museums of Pitigliano and Little Jerusalem

A
Cava del Gradone Pitigliano:
Strada Cave del Gradone, 58017 Pitigliano Province of Grosseto, Italy

get directions

The Archeological Museum of Etruscan Civilization of Poggio Buco has Bronze Age findngs and a warehouse-laboratory which restores 7th Century ceramics

B
Palazzo Orsini. Museo del Medioevo e Rinascimento:
Via Cavour, 58017 Pitigliano Province of Grosseto, Italy

get directions

Palazzo Orsini in Piazza dell Reppublica - Medieval Museum of the Renaissance, in the Orsini Fortress in 19 rooms built between 14th and 15th century

C
Jewish Museum, Synagogue and Ghetto:
Vicolo Marghera, 58017 Pitigliano Province of Grosseto, Italy

get directions

Jewish Museum, Synagogue and Ghetto

Palazzo Orsini Entrance

Palazzo Orsini Entance
Palazzo Orsini Entance | Source

Museum Poster Palazzo Orsini

Palazzo Orsini Exhibition Poster
Palazzo Orsini Exhibition Poster | Source

Etruscan Sites to Visit in Pitigliano


Between the the 1st century BC and 11 century AD the Romans, who absorbed the ancient Etruscan peoples into their own culture, built on the Pitigliano plateau.

In 1188 Pitigliano appeared as a fortified village owned by the Aldobrandeschi counts who had come from the northern Lombard regions and now ruled the Southern Tuscany area.

The Museo Civico Archeologico della Civiltà Etrusco in Piazza Fortezza Orsini 59/c (Tel 0564 614 067 or 0564 614074) has a well worth exhibition of findings that go back to ancient times.

The Museo all'Aperto Alberto Manzi, on the Strada Provincial Pantano has re constructed the "City of the Living" and "City of the Dead".

In the 'City of the Living' there is a re-constructed hut and an archaic house to describe the everyday life of the Etruscans. 'The City of the Dead' is in an area of the Necropolis which offers themes on cult, burial and physical-spirituality.


Inside the arches of Pitigliano
Inside the arches of Pitigliano | Source

Palazzo Orsini. The Courtyard

Inside the medieval feeling courtyard leading to a communal piazza that feels Renaissance.
Inside the medieval feeling courtyard leading to a communal piazza that feels Renaissance. | Source

Medieval and Renaissance Sites to Visit in Pitigliano


The Orsini, a Roman noble family with a lot of influence in medieval Italy, conquered Siena and nearly all of the Maremma area of Southern Tuscany in 1313, moving their capital to Pitigliano, dislodging the Aldobrandeschi family.

Enriched by the patronage of Niccolo 111 in 1466 the Orsini of Pitigliano flourished. The facade of the cathedral (or Duomo) built at the end of the 15th century is an noteworthy example of baroque architecture. (In the square next to it there is a 14th century plinth with a crouching bear on the top, very weather beaten over the years. The Orsini family put it there, since the name Orsini means 'bears'.)

Two hundred years later Ferdinand 1 the Grand Duke of Tuscany got hold of all the Orsini possessions which ended the 'county' of Pitigliano for about two hundred years - when it became a 'city'. It was at this time that the Jewish people found secure refuge in the town.

In the Museo di Palazzo Orsini (in Piazza Fortezza Orsini 4) there are 19 rooms exhibiting very precious works in gold and silver, coin collections, precious materials paintings and sculptures on wood.

In the center of the courtyard of the Palazzo stands a very ornate Renaissance well which is said to honor the family lineage of the counts of Pitigliano.


The Well in the Palazzo Orsini
The Well in the Palazzo Orsini | Source

Baroque 15th Century Pitigliano Catheral Facade

Baroque 15th Century Pitigliano Cathedral Facade
Baroque 15th Century Pitigliano Cathedral Facade | Source

The Jewish Synagogue

The Jewish Synagogue (top white building)
The Jewish Synagogue (top white building) | Source
The Jewish Ghetto
The Jewish Ghetto | Source

Jewish Food In the Ghetto of Pitigliano


Because Pitigliano was a separate 'city' state, the Jewish people, fleeing from insecurity in Rome felt safe when they crossed the Tuscan border. Pitigliano is the southernmost town in Tuscany. Indeed the Jewish settlers lived in complete harmony with the inhabitants of the old 'city'.

But Pope Cosimo 11, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, during a Catholic counter-reformation period decided that the Jewish people in Pitigliano should all be segregated into a Hebrew quarter of the town.

Story has it that a stick knocked at their door which meant they had to leave the home they lived in. From this black tale comes the story of a loaf of desert bread. The loaf is 20-30 centimeters long (stuffed with dried fruits honey and orange peel) that resembles that stick. It is a delicious specialty of the ghetto bakery 'Il forno delle Azzime' today - and we buy it at Christmastime because there is something very Christmas about its flavor.

You may still buy Kosher wine in Pitigliano made under the supervision of the Rabbi, visit the local caves carved in tufo, which are a testimony to the Jewish communal life. You can also visit the Kosher butcher's shop canteen, a dry cleaners and the small Jewish cemetery below the butte.

The synagogue (which dates back to 1598) with the Ritual Baths and the Museum of Jewish Culture are all in this fascinating part of the city were the streets are so narrow, you can only just get through!

The Jewish population did survive Nazi occupation of Italy, but fled, leaving very few inhabitants in the city.

For further information you may contact them at Associazone La Piccola Gerusalemme, tel 0564 614230

Bronze Statue of IL Villano

Bronze Statue of Villano
Bronze Statue of Villano | Source

Villano

Father I want to know who is Villano?


My son, if you think of a man praying
hat in hand, on his knees
calling God, while he thinks about someone whose crying, then swears,
then asks forgiveness
wiping the sweat off his brow, stroking an ear
of corn, that's Villano.

If you see someone smiling while picking golden grapes
or crying and despairing for the delusions of human beings
who takes his tools and with strong calloused hands
or who sits in a field when tiredness torments his limbs
who re-find his strength
that, my son is Villano.

If you know a man who loves the smell of three leaf clover
and the smell of hay
who loves producing perfumed fruit,
who loves tranquility and peace
who loves the purest stream
the dew of the morning sun
then, my son you are in the presence of God
and his favorite
you can shake his hand
because he has the noble title of Villano

Bronze Sculpture of Villano and his Donkey


One of my favorite pass times in Pitigliano, (which is 40 minutes from where I live) is it to sit in a quiet square and look at the bronze sculpture of a man and his donkey 'Villano'. After walking around so much history it's pleasant to contemplate today's good natured farmers here in these agricultural lands of the Maremma, the offspring of all that history!

There's a plaque next to the sculpture with the words of the poem dedicated to this modern local hero in the next column.

Saturnia


Perhaps it's time for more light relief.

Not twenty minutes away there is a 37 ° sulpher spa in the fields below the village of Saturnia.

The waters from the springs has been curing ails from rheumatism, to gout, from arthritis to nervous disorders for more than 3,000 years.

I have to return to Rome for my hospital day this coming week on Tuesday for Wednesday. Then we must return to the Poderina (somehow).

Today Hotel Terme di Saturnia have monopolized the springs; the massive marble pools with every kind of water therapy offer a divine respite from the past, pulling you into a sense of the absolute glorious present.

Travel Tips

The closest airport for Pitigliano is Rome.

The closest railway station is Grosseto.

Another word for Bed and Breakfast in Italy is 'Agritourismo'. You can find a list of local Agritourismi from the local tourist office 0564 617111

The area code for Italy from abroad is +39

Most hotels and Agritourismi speak enough English to make a reservation. Good luck!

Agritourismo Tuscany


For your perfect weekend in Pitigliano in Southern Tuscany here is a carefully selected choice of three different accommodations in or around Pitigliano to suit any budget or desire.

  • A smart 17th century refurbished hotel the heart of Pitigliano with every chique comfort, beamed ceilings and all -

Hosteria il Ceccotino

  • A Bed and Breakfast slightly out of town but oh so wonderfully comfortable -

Locanda Ilune

  • A nice hotel close to the town with a pool, reasonable rates and who offer excursions and tours for small groups too -

The Hotel Corano

© 2012 Penelope Hart

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    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Once you get to Pitigliano, why hurry. If you planned to wander around for half a day, you could visit both, but if you decided to enjoy more, maybe eat something there, stop for a glass of wine or coffee, why not take longer?

      Many thanks for sharing. It's fascinating and I wish you a happy, interesting day!

    • profile image

      rella 

      6 years ago

      I am going to visit Pitigliano on my trip to Italy in a few months, I am so excited but I want to know around how long the Museo di Palazzo Orsini museum will take to tour through and around how long the Jewish museum will take?

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      It was a wintry day, perfect for taking pictures of this dramatic place, which I'm so pleased you enjoyed reading about, thank you.

    • braydonmoore profile image

      Braydon Moore 

      6 years ago from Canada

      Thanks for sharing nice knowledge about such a fascinating and beautiful place. Good and Natural Photography.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Glad you liked it. Siena isn't very far away!

      Thanks so much for your comment!

    • TravelinJack profile image

      Jack Baumann 

      6 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

      I absolutely love Tuscany! Siena is such a great base to explore the amazing natural and manmade beauty of Tuscany. I really love the layout and content of this hub, very well done! Voted up and beautiful!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      6 years ago from Rome, Italy

      Phillip It's beautiful and you will enjoy it.

      Judi Bee, And when you visit, you must also visit us, nearby. Many thanks for your votes.

      Just ask Susan. Pitigliano is a wonderful place to visit, just amazing!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I hope to visit and I've put Pitigliano on my bucket list. Absolutely beautiful!

    • Judi Bee profile image

      Judi Brown 

      6 years ago from UK

      Perfectly beautiful - love these Italian cities rising out of the hilltops! I would love to visit - shall add it to the ever-increasing list of places we must get to.

      Voted up and pinned.

    • profile image

      Phillip 

      7 years ago

      Deffinitely on the agenda next visit to Marema!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      So pleased you found the information interesting to you. Thanks for your comments.

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 

      7 years ago from The City of Generals

      Great article and photos! I'm continually awed, Tuscany is forever beautiful. I've known of Etruscans as first users and makers of terracotta, one of the many things I'd love exploring about so glad Pitigliano have a history of them. Most of my relaxing scenery views are that of Tuscany, too! All the info is worth safekeeping. Thank you!

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      CyclingFitness So then, lets hope you do come over to visit. Same goes for you

      chrissieklinger

      xstatic. So nice of you to comment on this wonderful country and thanks for the 'up'.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      7 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      This is wonderful information and beautiful photography of a lovely place in a lovely country. Up!

    • chrissieklinger profile image

      chrissieklinger 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      WOW! I am so ready to get on a plane and visit. Super article!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      7 years ago from Nottingham UK

      Looks like a fantastic place to visit. I seriously need to get over to Tuscany soon

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      mecheshier Thank you for your comment and for your vote.

    • mecheshier profile image

      mecheshier 

      7 years ago

      Great Hub, wonderful ideas, pics and info. Thank you. Voted up

    • profile image

      Poppit 

      7 years ago

      Pitigliano here I come!

      Nice piece. Thanks.

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      thanks daidawei

    • profile image

      daidawei 

      7 years ago from China

      Beautiful?

    • GoodLady profile imageAUTHOR

      Penelope Hart 

      7 years ago from Rome, Italy

      bdegiulio, it's really steeped in history! thanks for commenting

      LauraG Thanks for dropping in

      wilderness You have to!

      Brainy Bunny. Thanks so much for reading and comments and I mean it when I say I do hope you will make it over.

    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 

      7 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      That top photo literally took my breath away. Amazing. I would love to check out this town; I can't believe I've never heard of it before! Really interesting info about the Jewish ghetto there. Voted up, awesome, and beautiful!

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 

      7 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      How beautiful and fascinating. I've just GOT to get to Europe one day.

    • LauraGSpeaks profile image

      LauraGSpeaks 

      7 years ago from Raleigh, NC

      Gorgeous photography and an excellent description of what appears to be a beautiful place filled with history. Thanks for sharing your knowledge in this hub.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      Penelope. What a beautiful place. This is what amazes me about Italy. There are just so many out of the way little villages that are full of history, culture and beauty. Love the bronze statue. great job.

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