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Report 673: Tuscan Rambles

By Doug Phillips from Canada, Spring 2004

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Page 11 of 17: Day 10 – Monday May 10: Pitigliano, Sovana

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Today we decided to drive to the southernmost part of Tuscany and explore a different landscape. While we didn’t like to spend much time on the Autostrada, we decided it was the most practical way of getting as far south as we needed to go in a reasonable time frame. We actually drove out of Tuscany, into Lazio, before leaving the A1 at the Orvieto exit & traveling overland back into Tuscany on our way to the spectacular cliffside town of Pitigliano.

Many Tuscan towns are similar in appearance, but Pitigliano is unique, with the main buildings crowded on a ridge of volcanic rock that rises sheer from the surrounding countryside. Parking is problematic; we squeezed into a spot on a narrow street and prepared to enter the main part of the town. We discovered that we had to climb a flight of stairs and cross over the main road that skirts the town before entering the medieval section. There are a few interesting buildings and artwork, but for the most part the main rewards of a visit to Pitigliano are wandering along its narrow serpentine streets and visiting some of its small shops. We had a simple lunch in a modest corner sandwich bar, topped off by excellent gelati – (Is there any other kind in Italy?)

In early afternoon we left Pitigliano and drove over some flat (!!!) countryside to the small Etruscan village of Sovana. No problem parking here; the large car park was almost empty. Sovana is really not much more than one main street, the Via di Mezzo, featuring one of Tuscany’s most beautiful parish churches, the 13th century Santa Maria. The simple interior was the most inspiring of all the churches we visited. At one end of the village is the imposing Cathedrale di SS Pietro e Paolo, which presence is due to a connection to medieval nobility. After touring the cathedral, we returned by a small path and came upon an artisan, forming various objects out of the porous volcanic rock, interesting, but we decided not very practical to be carting home. The area around Sovana has several Etruscan remains, some of which can be viewed from the road.

From Sovana we drove along secondary roads over to Sorano where the typical Tuscan hills returned. We made our way over to Acquapendente and turned north on the SS2. We were intent on visiting the third of the three main abbeys in Tuscany, the Abbadia San Salvadore in the hilltop town of the same name. We drove up the long and winding road going into the modern town and drove right by the abbey in the older town centre without realizing it. By the time we realized out mistake we were heading out of the town. We backtracked into the busy older part of the town, could not find a parking space after several minutes, and made a decision to pass on this abbey.

We headed back to the SS2 continued north, turned right at San Quirco d’Orcia and made our way past Pienza and Montepulciano back to Villa Nottola over the now familiar roads.

I would recommend a day in southern Tuscany. The landscape is different; Pitigliano and Sovana are unique; the Etruscan influence is more noticeable than in many other parts of Tuscany.

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