Last Updated on November 28, 2023 by Laura Teso
Sovana is a delightful village near the most known Pitigliano in the Grosseto province of Tuscany. This is a strange land, of rare and peculiar beauty. Little villages perched in hills and built in tufa rock. Seeing those marvellous scenery was amazing for me. It was the first time in my life I saw something like that.
Before visiting Sovana, Matteo and I had the chance to visit an archaeological marvel of the area, the park called “Città del Tufo” (Tufa cities). Its peculiarity is that the different necropolis (in the territories of Sovana, Sorano and Vitozza) are connected by several hollow passageways carved into rock and therefore called vie cave. The park was born only in 1998 in order to allow tourists and locals to visit these important sites.
Due to a lack of time, we only visited the area near Sovana. We parked the car at the parking lot (ther is a toilet there, but you have to ask the keys at the ticket office which is 100 meters away).
First of all, the archaeological site is astonishing. There are many different monumental tombs. The Ildebranda Tomb is the most magnificent, resembling a true Etruscan temple. The name is due to Ildebrando di Sovana, who became Pope Gergorio VII.
Mysterious Vie Cave
Second, the vie cave are a true highlight of the whole tour: narrow, twisty, mysterious, fascinating. I never saw anything like that in my entire life! The biggest one is the so called Cavone (big quarry). It has in fact 20 meters high walls with different colours sinuous veining. But the other via cava, called Poggio Prisca, impressed me most, even if it was way shorter. First of all because it was the first one I saw. Second because it was much narrower. You also have to wear trekking shoes.
Along with the relics, nature is protagonist here: woods, shrubs, oak trees, ochre tufa rocks and clean air. This Maremma area seems really intact and primeval. David Herbert Lawrence wrote about this area:
“Everything here is fresh, vibrant and not oppressive, small and delicate, fascinating rather than impressive. It seems that in the Etruscan instinct there was an authentic desire to preserve the natural mood of life, a task more worthy and far more difficult than conquering the world, sacrificing oneself or save an immortal soul.”
I am very enthusiast and I suggest to everyone to go and visit the Sovana Archaeological Park. You will experience a unique atmosphere. In my opinion it is worth both for archaeology lovers and for nature lovers. This activity will combine history and hiking for an (also emotional) adventure. If you just visit just the highlights (Tomba Ildebranda, Cava Poggio Prisca, Romba del Tifone and Cabone) it will take only an hour or so.
She wears her heart on her sleeves
While we were walking inside the Cavone a gentle rain started. We reached the car and two parents were trying to convince their younger daughter (about 4 years old, I think) not to take off her pink raincoat cape. But she was adamant. She didn’t want the cape cause… it had no sleeves. And she felt strange. She protested: Voglio le maniche! I want sleeves! Oh, she was so cute. Poor thing, I guess she felt uncomfortable, as if she wasn’t free to move properly without her sleeves 🙂
Arrival in Sovana
We then reached Sovana to have lunch. And there the heavy rain started. In fact, I remember posting something on Facebook while we were “trapped” in the car waiting for the rain to calm down.
Sovana was an Etruscan village, later conquered by Romans. Its name derives from the Etruscan word “suf”, meaning “green land”. The current centre was developed during the Middle Ages in proximity of the Etruscan necropolis (the Archaeological park I visited) and it was under the rule of the Aldobrandeschi family.
During the following centuries the town suffered ups and downs. For example at the beginning of the XVIII century the census counted only 24 inhabitants! Sovana regained popularity and population only in the XX century, thanks to its archaeological heritage and the resulting tourism.
Sovana – What to see
- Arriving in Sovana, you can see the impressive town walls. The walls date back to 3 different periods: Etruscan, Medieval and Renaissance, which is the most visible.
- Chiesa di Santa Maria (XII century) which gave us recovery when we decided to leave the car and confront the rain. It had a beautiful ciborium and a very suggestive atmosphere, but it was maybe due to the rain-recovery effect.
- Palazzo Bourbon del Monte is on the left of the Santa Maria Church. It was once property of a bishop. Now, in the mail hall and in the garden, take place a music and theatre festival (in August).
- Former church of San Mamiliano, probably the most ancient of Sovana (IV century), now seat of the Museum. The most peculiar thing displayed in this museum is the so called Sovana treasure. Rumour has it could be part of Count of Montecristo’s treasure. I was very intrigued by this theory since Dumas’ book is one of my favourite books ever.
- Palazzo dell’Archivio (XII c.) or Town Hall. It is the one with the clock and the tiny bell tower, the true protagonist of every photo people take in Sovana.
- Palazzo Pretorio with the Captain Loggia (XII century). On the right of the Town Hall, it is adorned by several emblems (of the ancient captains).
- The Duomo, Concattedrale di San Pietro (X century), a bit detached form the burg with the adjacent Palazzo Vescovile (VII c.)
- On the other side of the town, the Rocca Aldobrandesca built around the year 1000 by the Adolbrandeschi family. Nowadays only some ruins remain of this building.
Apart from these historical and cultural highlights and despite the littleness, in Sovana you can also find some interesting artisan workshops: Etruscan style jewels (very pretty), leather accessories, wood or wrought iron furniture, ceramics, fabrics. Hence: a woman’s paradise. But it can also be the right place for gourmands, especially if they like extra virgin olive oil and wine, including kasher wine (once here lived a Jewish community).
I found only two flaws while in Sovana. One was a shopkeeper who yelled at me cause I made one photo of the facade of his shop. I was honestly disconcerned. First of all I am always respectful, I try not to disturb anyone while taking pictures. I took just one photo. Of the outside. It was so beautiful and full or plants! Plus I thought he should have been happy because this could mean a bit of publicity for his shop. But no. He was bothered.
OK. I do not say this can’t happen. It is understandable also his point of view. But he could have told me in a gentle manner. I was really hurt by his crabby reproach that I almost cried. And I felt sorry and upset for some time after. For the rest of the day I was very worried when I wanted to take pictures in that burg and later in Pitigliano.
The other one was the bar where we stopped for lunch. It was nice, with tables al fresco. The people at the table next to ours had a super cute pug with a nice girly necklace. I must say: the food portions were very very scarce. We ordered two tuna salads. They costed 7€ each. They brought us two quite small bowls with lettuce, a couple of pieces of tomato, some black olives and 3 or 4 small pieces of tuna. Plus 2 mini slices of bread each. The price was too high for the amount.
I ended up quite as hungry as I was before lunch. In fact, as we went back to the car, we devoured many taralli my best friend Raimondo had brought me from Puglia the week before. I always bring taralli on vacation. I put the bag in the car so that we can have something to eat in case of sudden hunger.
Apart from these two episodes, I found Sovana very lovely. A small boutique burg, very well kept and full of flowers and colours. I think some villages of my region should learn something here! I know it may sound odd said by a woman with no green thumb at all, but flowers and plants can really do the difference! Sovana has a sophisticated and graceful flair and it can be a romantic destination for couples in love.