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Pitigliano, Sovana and Sorano
Southern Tuscany, near the border with Lazio, is less crowded, sees fewer tourists and is more rural than the central parts of Tuscany. The landscape is sparse and wide open: rolling hills, fields, not heavily wooded. The southwestern part of Tuscany is called the Maremma, an area of ranches and cowboys (the Texas of Tuscany).
If you are staying in the Montepulciano - Pienza - Montalcino area, a day trip to southern Tuscany is fun and not too long of a drive. See Pitgliano, Sovana and Sorano. If you can only do two of the three, skip Sorano. Add in Saturnia to stop for lunch and to visit the hot springs.
Looking at Pitigliano from across the valley
We have been through this area several times and have not figured out a good route. The roads look good on the map, but are narrow and winding and slow going. One time we drove from the main highway (No. 2) and turned off at Acquapendente in the direction of Onano, then to Sorano, then to Sovana. This was very slow going - took much longer than we thought (about an hour from Acquapendente).
From Sovana, you can go straight south to Pitigliano, but we headed west to Saturnia for lunch and hot springs, then we took the more main road south from Saturnia to Manciano, where we headed east to Pitigliano. You get a spectacular view of Pitigliano from this road. So spectacular, that the car in front of us came to a dead stop when the town came into view. And this was on a busy highway!
Also coming from this direction there is an incredible hairpin turn right at the town gates for Pitigliano. If you are going into the town, go straight, but watch for traffic coming down the hill to your right. There is parking in this area.
If you are bypassing Pitigliano (as we were), you have to do a very sharp right turn while going up a steep hill. I happened to be driving, and the car was manual drive, and I still can't believe we survived without a scratch. Added in to all this, was Steve saying watch out for glass on the road, so I swerved and ruined my approach for the sharp turn and a big bus was coming towards us and I had to drive right into his lane to make the turn. All while shifting down. Only my masterful driving got us out of that one!
I think it is better to turn off north of Aquapendente, on the same road that goes to Piancastagnaio but it splits very soon and you would go in the direction of Castell'Azzara then Sorano. This might be a shorter and faster route.
Detail on outside wall of the church of San Rocco in Pitigliano (12th century)
The Towns of Southern Tuscany
Pitigliano: A perfectly preserved old town perched high on a ledge overlooking two rivers. It has several stores, caffes and restaurants. Explore the whole town and then walk down the steps by the main gate to get to the path that goes around the bottom of the town. The historic center of this town is coming back to life - mostly for holiday homes, but there are still some locals living here full time. As in most Tuscan hill towns, most locals live in the modern outskirts.
Sorano: One guide books says it is grey and boring, another says it is a great town. We just drove by, but I am sure it is worth a visit. It looked beautiful.
Sovana: Fabulous small town with two good churches. The one in the center of town has excellent stone carvings and bits of frescoes. Many stores, restaurants and caffes - but it is a very small town. You park on the edge of town and walk in. See the Etruscan tombs west of Sovana, just off the highway.
Saturnia: Drive on to Saturnia and have lunch in our favorite restaurant, I Due Cippi da Michele or one of the other fine restaurants here. This town is very upscale and beautiful. It is also small. There is an original Roman arch and a bit of old Roman road at the edge of the town. The famous Saturnia spa and hot springs are just down the road.
Roman arch and road in Saturnia, on the edge of town
Book: The hilltop towns of the Fiora valley: A guide to the Etruscan
and Medieval centres of the Maremman hills.
www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/pitigliano_etruscan.htm: Etruscan Pathways. This area is littered with things from Etruscan times. There are burial grounds and Etruscan Pathways.
www.slowtrav.com/italy/tuscany/hot_springs.htm: Hot Springs in Tuscany. Information about the hot springs near Saturnia.
www.slowtrav.com/tr/tripreport.asp?tripid=491: Maremma: Lost in a Tuscan Kansas, trip report by Alice Twain, September 2004. Alice and her family spent a week in an agriturismo in the Maremma. Read the report for lots of good details about this area.
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