Our journey into the tuff civilization begins in Pitigliano, where the houses seem to be “born” directly from the rock, forming surreal structures.
Along the road that leads up to the plateau, characterized by hairpin turns, the view first meets the shapeless tuff, followed by the chaotic tangle of medieval houses and, finally, the large arches of the Medici-era aqueduct, made more out of air than material.
Before entering the labyrinth of alleyways, you will need to pass under the severe gaze of Palazzo Orsini, originally an Aldobrandesca fortress, perfectly placed to protect the only link between the town and the “mainland”: from the other sides, Pitigliano appears like a narrow peninsula, jutting out into an impregnable abyss.
Behind the palace, piazza della Repubblica cuts the “isthmus” of Pitigliano from north to south, offering a dual view of the ravine surrounding the town. A taste of the game of solids and voids awaits us in this maze of a village, where the narrow alleys winding through the houses suddenly transform into suspended terraces overlooking the cliffs.
The heart of the village is the narrow piazza Gregorio VII, where the cathedral dedicated to Saints Peter and Paul is located, along with its bell tower, whose massive and burly appearance betray its historic military use. Behind the cathedral, along via Zuccarelli, Pitigliano hides another one of its surprises: just slip into one of these dark alleys and you’ll find yourself in the Middle East.
This is Little Jerusalem, the ghetto that for several centuries, beginning in the 1500s, was home to one of the most flourishing Jewish communities in central Italy.
A visit to the synagogue is a must. Inside, you can admire the sacred Torah ark on the back wall, at the centre of which is the bema. The matroneum is located in the upper part and in the lower part, the ritual bath. Designated rooms carved into the rock are home to the kosher butcher, the oven for baking matzah, the kosher wine cellar and the dye-works.
Our walk through these streets ends at the steep staircase on via di Porta Sovana, which descends through into valley and the mystery of the Etruscan Vie Cave.