Bewitched by Pitigliano’s charm

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I wanted to visit Pitigliano since 2004. That year I took my car and I decided to go visit Tuscany on my own. This is something quite common in other nations. But in Italy it was not. Even now, to go alone to the cinema, or to have dinner alone at the restaurant is odd for Italians.

Anyway, I visited many places and I had fun. One evening, in the Siena hostel, I talked with a Mexican boy, who told me he was there to go visit a quaint village he had seen many years before in a magazine. That village was Pitigliano. I had never heard of it. But that Mexican boy put a bee in my bonnet or, as we say in Italy, mi ha messo la pulce nell’orecchio (put a flea in my ear).

I confess that the whole #mycorneroftuscany idea came out of that: I wanted to see Pitigliano. And I wanted to share it in the blog. So I started looking at the map of Tuscany searching for other interesting and peculiar burgs to include in the tour.

At first sight

Arriving in Pitigliano is an extraordinary emotion. Seeing those houses on the edge of the tufa boulder, blending so that you don’t know where the rock ends and the dwelling begins, was breathtaking. Even if I had already seen many photos. I can’t describe you how deep I was bewitched by Pitigliano’s sight.

Street of Pitigliano
Street of Pitigliano

Legend and history

There’s a legend regarding Pitigliano’s foundation: Two young Etruscan boys, Petilio and Celiano (hence Pitigliano), stole the golden crown from Jupiter Temple in Rome and took it to the top of the cliff. There, won over by the beauty of the place, decided to found the town. Sadly this is just a legend, because Pitigliano is way more ancient.

In the XII was a castro (fortified village) possessed by the Adlobrandeschi, lords of the whole Maremma. At the end of 1200 n Aldobrandeschi girl married a member of the Orsini family, dynasty who ruled upon Pitigliano until the XVI century (when they gave it to the Medici family).

Street of Pitigliano
Street of Pitigliano

Little Jerusalem

Pitigliano is known as the little Jerusalem for the presence, once, of a Jewish community. The Jewish had been expelled in XVI century and found refuge here. It was a large presence (500 people) if compared to the number of locals (6.000). During the Second World War, some Jews of Pitigliano suffered deportation. Others fled away.

It is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy and has also the Touring club orange flag for the uniqueness and homogeneity of its old town and for the value of its attractions. When we arrived we enjoyed an unexpected sight. Since it rained for the first time after three months that very morning (while we were in Sovana), the land was releasing strange vapour clouds that surrounded the hill. It was very suggestive. The day after, the sun was shining again so we could enjoy also the clear sky panorama.

Pitigliano
Pitigliano

What to see in Pitigliano

  • The Aqueduct designed by Antonio da Sangallo in 1543, visible as soon as you reach the burg.
  • The Walls, built starting from the IX century (but a primeval fortification had already been built by Etruscans since VII b.C.) and restored during the Renaissance period. There are two Doors: Porta della Cittadella and Porta Sovana.
  • Etruscan Hollow Ways and Necropolis, wonderful archaeological areas I visited in the near Sovana.
  • Palazzo Orsini is a towering fortified palace (XI), now seat of the Museum of Sacred Art and of the Archaeological Museum. It dates back to the Middle Ages but it was restored according to the renaissance canon.
  • The Baroque Duomo, Cathedral of San Pietro e Paolo.
  • Santa Maria and San Rocco church, probably the most ancient in Pitigliano (XII).
  • Ancient ghetto with the Synagogue (1598), the Ritual Bath, the Oven, the Wine Cellar, the Kosher butcher shop. There I bought the sfratto (see below). While I didn’t find the ghetto that remarkable, it is in any case a way to see what the caves under the burg look like.
  • Piazza Becherini belvedere a the end of the burg.
  • The 1944 bombing area.
  • A shop, selling shirts with the writing Maremma Maiala, which is a local swaer expression literally meaning Pig Maremma (the area of Tuscany in which Pitigliano is located).
  • Along the main street (the central one), on the right there is a souvenirs shop. There you can go down and see their “magic cave”, a sort of mix between a nativity scene and a fairies land with Pitigliano on the background, created by the daughter of the shop’s owner. It is interesting to see what’s like under a Pitigliano house/shop: caves in the tufa.

Pitigliano’s true highlight

Pitigliano’s highlight is however Pitigliano itself: the narrow picturesque streets where ladies chat sitting on chairs to enjoy the breeze, the small piazzas with elegant fountains, the stone stairways, the windows and portals of the houses, the rooms excavated in the rock, the amazing views on the surrounding valley and its green slopes, brooks and cliffs.

You can make a toast with a glass of the Bianco di Pitigliano, local doc white wine. A local dish are the bread gnocchi, often served with wild boar sauce. As for dessert, you can taste a sfratto, a cigar-shaped biscuit filled with chopped walnuts, honey, orange zest and nutmeg. It is a Jewish treat. In fact the name sfratto means eviction and it refers to the departure of the Jews from their home. I had a sfratto and I find it quite good!

Pitigliano Wine Festival

We were in Pitigliano in the first days of September, during the SettembrediVino event, ie the Wine Cellars Festival. The 10 wine cellars of the burg compete for the title of best cellar. The staff and the sympathizers of each cellar must create some original settings in their burg’s area, organize an entertainment for the soiree and prepare local food that is served during the evenings of the festival. Accompanied by their wine, of course. Raffaella of the Tourist Information Office invited us to her Cellar. And she added: “It’s the best, it’s the rowdier…” And I immediately knew it was absolutely not my kind of place, since I’m very quiet and I prefer calm places. It was funny to see people of the burg of all ages involved in the preparations. And it was also fun to attend the soiree.

Le cantine

  • Pistoni Roventi (Hot Pistons)
  • I Classici Torsi (The Classic… torsi I honestly ignore if is intended as in human torso, ie chest, or fruit torso, ie a core)
  • Cantina Imperiale (Imperial Cellar)
  • La Sbornia (The Wine Bender)
  • I Serpi Vecchi (Old Snakes)
  • I Cicilisti (The Cyclists)
  • Cooperativa di Pitigliano (Cooperative)
  • San Giuseppe (Saint Joseph)
  • Cantina dell’Aurora (Dawn Cellar)
  • Cantina di Pantalla (I honestly don’t know who or what Pantalla is)

As for the setting, the best in my opinion was the Sbornia‘s one, with giant bottles of wine. I Serpi Vecchi had the most funny signs, like:

The signs

Mustaches over 10 cm are VAT free
Drink and bring the Hobbits back to Isengard!
Maybe you can have fun also without drinking but why risk it?
Obviously there was one regarding the poor non-drinkers like me: Marginalise the non-drinker.

In the end, we chose Cantina di Pantalla, cause the setting was comfortable, just in front of the Cathedral, the people were calm, and plus they organized an accordion concert.  And I love those kind of things. Raffaella will surely disapprove. Scusa, Raffaella!


Pitigliano by night

I warmly suggest you to come and enjoy this sight at sunset, because the orange and reddish shades enhance the beauty of Pitigliano. At night the burg is all illuminated and offers an unforgettable view. There are two panoramic points along the road with sufficent parking place to stop for a photo. I can’t tell you how many times I asked Matteo to go to the panoramic spot again! I was bewitched by that sight. With clear sky in the morning, at sunset, at night, it was charming at all times. I think I took hundreds of photos!

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