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Report 491: Maremma: Lost in a Tuscan Kansas

By Alice Twain from Italy, Summer 2004

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Page 5 of 7: A Full Day in Pitigliano

Having to leave before 10 am so that Maristella could clean up for the next family, we decided to spend the last day of our holiday in Pitigliano, which I had visited on a previous occasion a couple of years ago but neither Luca nor Rosanna had ever visited.

We drove down to Albinia on the Aurelia, than turned left on the Maremmana. The first third of the Maremmana road goes through a flat scenary of fields, then comes a third of low rolling hills, than finally you are into the mountains, where the tufo towns begin. Luca's initial plan included visiting Sovana too, which is just a few kilometers from Pitigliano, but he ditched it when he saw Pitigliano.

The town appears suddenly as you turn at Madonna delle Grazie, perched on top of the tufaceous hill. That curve had to be called "Oooh!" because that's what all first timers (and second timers too) say when making that turn. Right there the road is a little larger to allow room for the cars to stop for pictures. Unfortunately on the way up you will get pictures that either show the road or are cut wrongly. If possible, don't try to cross the road (which is extremely dangerous) to take better pictures. Do your best from the wrong side of the road or wait until you are returning home for the pictures.

Pitigliano was founded by the Etruscans, then became one of the main cities of the area during the Aldobrandeschi period, then the capital city of the Orsini family before being handed over to the Medici first and the Lorena later. It has two peculiarities:

1. The rock outcrop has been excavated and turned into a network of galleries and rooms layered under the city

2. Since the Aldobrandeschi had a particularly accomodating attitude towards Jews, Pitigliano has since and until the 1940's hosted a large Jewish community, and it is also known as "little Jerusalem."

On entrance to the town, you can see the spectacular, tall arches of the Medici acquaeduct. Inside the walls, you find yourself facing the town hall. On your right, there are two stairs that lead to the ancient fortress area and to a slender bridge that connects the old and the new part of the town. On the left, there is the Orsini Palace. Its gardens can be visited freely, the two museums (town museum and etruscan museum) require a moderately priced ticket. We visited the first (three euro); actually the objects shown in the museum are not that interesting (I guess the most interesting pieces have been moved to either Florence or Grosseto), but is shows clearly the structure of the ancient palace. Plus it has very clean toliets. Continuing on the left the old town starts.

Going around Pitigliano is easy; it has three or four parallel main streets and a huge number of tiny alleys connecting them and leading to the border of the ledge on which the town sits. Things to visit include the ghetto, where the local Jews were forced to live during the Orsini and Medici periods (they were free during the Aldobrandeschi and Lorena periods, but gained full citizenship rights only after Italy's unification in the XIX century); the community was all but erased during WWII, and the ghetto structures were left to decay until some ten years ago, when they were restored. They include the bakery, the baths, the butchery, a museum, and a synagogue. All these structures are closed on Saturday. Under the arch, on Via Zuccarelli that marks the entrance to the ghetto area, check out "Panificio del ghetto" for bread and local sweets, in particular sfratti (unlevened bread filled with nuts and honey).

The two most important churches are the cattedrale in the main square and the smaller church of Santa Maria or San Rocco, on whose wall there is a small medieval sculture of a man that sticks both hands in the mouths of two dragons. Facing the church of Santa Maria etc., the street leads to a tiny square with a highly spectacular terrace called "finestrone" (big window). On its right, a narrow streets leads to a door in the original Etruscan walls.

But don't forget to wander down any alley to see the landscapes from the small terraces on the edge of the hill and to visit any shop with a stair leading down (and walk down that stair).

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