Pitigliano is a small village in the southern part of Southern Maremma built into tuff. It stands on a ridge at 313 metres above sea level, surrounded by green valleys crossed by the Lente and Meleta rivers. The same shape of the town, characterised by homes built vertically onto a tuff cliff, almost makes the surrounding walls superfluous.
According to an ancient legend, the foundation of the city is owed to two Romans: Petilio and Celiano; the name of Pitigliano derives from combining their names together.
Pitigliano has carefully preserved its rich history. Traces remain of its centuries of cultural development, from prehistoric settlements and clear evidence of Etruscan civilisation, visible in the tombs throughout the region and in its walls, to the romans whose traces remain in the town’s very name.
From the Alobrandeschi, lords of the Maremma for about 500 years, we then move on to the Renaissance grandeur of the noble Roman Orsini family. After a brief Sienese presence, it then passed to the Medici and their Lorraine heirs who brought with them the promise of new urban development and stimulated an important modernisation phase.
What to see in Pitigliano
It’s easy to wonder at the magic and charm of Pitigliano while wandering through the historic alleyways and, most importantly, visiting its famous Jewish ghetto. The magnificent town has actually been known throughout history as “Little Jerusalem” for the active Jewish community that has been settled there since the 15th century. Today, you can visit the Museum of Jewish Culture, the Synagogue and, through an intriguing pathway, the oven where unleavened bread was baked. You can also see the cellar dug into the tuff where kosher wine was produced, the butcher’s shop, the purification bath for woman and the dry cleaners.
Before entering the maze of narrow streets you’ll pass by the Orsini Palace, an impressive Aldobrandesque building. Restored by the Orsinis between the 15th and 16th centuries, today it houses two museums: the Civic Archaeological Museum and the Palazzo Orsini Museum.
Nearby: the mystery of the vie cave
If you decide to leave the town, you can discover the fascinating vie cave: corridors carved into tufaceous rock, created by the Etruscan civilization. Some are over a kilometer in length, with walls up to 20 meters high.
One of the most impressive is the Gradone, where the "Alberto Manzi" open-air Archaeological Museum has been established. It has two pathways: one through "the city of the living" and the other through "the city of the dead". The journey into the historic Etruscan civilization continues in nearby Sorano, where you can visit the Tuff City Archaeological Park and the famous Sovana Necropolis.
Typical produce and dishes: the Sfratto and the Bianco di Pitigliano
The wealth of Pitigliano's past is also visible in its luxurious wine production. The region’s vineyards are fertilized by volcanic tuff and a 1000 year old humus soil that produces one of the finest Italian white wines, Bianco di Pitigliano, which was one of the very first to claim the DOC title.
The Sfratto del Goym is one of the region’s unmissable specialties. It’s a traditional Jewish dessert prepared with a thin sheet of flour, eggs, sugar, butter and spices, and a filling of honey, nuts, nutmeg and citrus peel.
Events: the wine festival
One of the most anticipated events in Pitigliano is SettembreDivino, which takes place every year alongside the harvest. For four days, the historic center’s cellars are opened and serve local wines, dishes and typical products, all accompanied by music and entertainment.