Pitigliano is a stunning medieval town in the Maremma of Tuscany, dramatically perched atop a tufa ridge. Etruscan tombs dot the cliff face and valley. Pitigliano is also known as Piccola Gerusalemme or Little Jerusalem.
Piccola Gerusalemme - Little Jerusalem
The Jewish Quarter of Pitigliano was settled by Jews in the 16th century when the town became a haven for Jews escaping the enclosed ghettos of cities like Siena and Florence. Even when the Jewish Quarter was enclosed in 1622, relationships still continued between Jews and non-Jews, and it was known as the liveliest Jewish ghetto in Italy. When Jews were emancipated in the mid-19th century, the ghetto population was about 500, accounting for a third of Pitigliano's population. Many of them left for cities, though, and by WWII none were left.
The parts of the ancient Jewish Quarter open to visitors include a small museum, the restored synagogue from 1598, ritual baths, dye works, the Kosher butchering area, and bread ovens.
What to See in Pitigliano
The tourist information office is on Piazza Garibaldi, just inside the main city gate. Ask about tours of the caves and tunnels under the town. In addition to the Jewish Quarter (see above), Pitigliano is a good medieval town for wandering. Here are some of the top things to see:
- Palazzo Orsini is a 14th-century fortress near the town's entrance. It's now a museum housing artworks, Etruscan finds, and a medieval torture chamber. The 15th-century walls surrounding the medieval town are part of the Orsini Fortress.
- A 16th-century aqueduct runs along the side of town and across Via Cavour.
- Chiesa di San Rocco is the oldest church in town, dating from the 12th century. During recent reconstruction, an ancient tomb was discovered.
- The Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul was built during the Middle Ages and remodeled in the 16th century in Baroque style. Several good artworks are inside.
- Underground tunnels and caves dug into the tufa beneath the city have been in use since Etruscan times when the cliff was dotted with tombs. This underground area is sometimes open to the public on walking tours. Ask at the tourist office. There's also a Christian cave chapel dating from about 400 AD that's said to be the oldest in Italy.
- Piazza Becherini is the best place to go for views of the valleys surrounding the city.
Etruscan Tombs and Towns of the Maremma
- Etruscan sacred ways and tombs dot the Maremma valleys, with at least ten in the Pitigliano Valley. The sacred pathways, called Vie Cave, are narrow passageways dug through the tufa rock of valley below Pitigliano. They connect to neighboring cities, once also Etruscan strongholds. They are fascinating to explore, and some have Etruscan and Roman markings along the high vertical sides and are usually near a necropolis. Pick up a map to the Via Cave from the tourist office.
- Sorano, Sovana, and Saturnia are the three other towns with Etruscan and medieval roots in the area. Sorano has two castles, Sovana has a well-preserved medieval center, and Saturnia is one of the most ancient cities in Italy.
- Wine is produced in the Maremma and you'll see vineyards as you drive through the countryside. The area around Pitigliano produces a good white wine called Bianco di Pitigliano and Kosher wine is still produced here, too.
- Monte Argentario is a seaside gem in the Maremma, 60 km from Pitigliano. It was once an island but is now connected to the mainland by sandbars and lagoons. From here you can visit the Tuscan archipelago. Monte Argentario Travel Guide
Pitigliano Location and Transportation
Pitigliano is in Southern Tuscany's Maremma region, a part of Tuscany that sees far fewer tourists than the central Tuscan hill towns. It's between Rome (140km) and Florence (175km), about 48 km southeast of Grosseto (See Tuscany Map for Grosseto location) and 25 km west of Lake Bolsena in the Northern Lazio region.
There's no train station in town but buses serve Pitigliano from other cities and towns in Tuscany, including Siena, Florence, and Grosseto (served by train). The town itself is small enough to walk around easily. A car is recommended for touring the countryside, Etruscan sites, hot springs, and other small towns of the Maremma.
Where to Stay and Eat in Pitigliano
- La Casa degli Archi (the House of the Arches) comprises several small, charming apartments right in the old town.
- Cozy guesthouse Locanda Il Tufo Rosa is right by the gate to the old town and offers modest rooms.
- Albergo Guastini is a 3-star hotel in the center with 27 rooms, many of them with views.
- Hotel Valle Orientina is a 3-star hotel in the countryside about 2 miles from town with a spa, a thermal pool, and a restaurant.
A good place to eat is Hostaria del Ceccottino in the center of town. They serve Tuscan specialties and wines of the Maremma.
Article updated by Elizabeth Heath