Tuscan Maremma

Guide to Pitigliano, things to do in Pitigliano

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A village “carved” into the stone: Pitigliano

Pitigliano is a splendid medieval hamlet that seems to be born from the mind of a writer of fantasy books. Seen in the distance, the town seems to emerge from a huge tuff block as if it were the work of a sculpture. The visual impact of the village that stands on the tuff cliff with the houses lined up on the edge of the overhang is truly remarkable. A truly unique glance, but I assure you that Pitigliano at night is even more spectacular!

What to see in Pitigliano
Pitigliano by night (Photo by Deblu68 / CC BY)

The town of Pitigliano is located in the province of Grosseto, in the southernmost part of Tuscany. Pitigliano is located about 65 kilometers away from Grosseto and 50 kilometers from the sea. From here you can reach many other places of great interest such as the other cities of the Area del Tufo, Sovana and Sorano, the famous Terme di Saturnia, Manciano and the Lake Bolsena.

The history of Pitigliano

The area in which Pitigliano is located has been frequented since the Neolithic period and the first stable settlements began to rise during the Etruscan era. One of these Etruscan centers was located right where the village of Pitigliano stands today as evidenced by some archaeological finds. This Etruscan community inhabited the country until the fifth century BC. leaving many traces of his passages; in fact, the suggestive Vie Cave and some necropolises date back to this period.

Probably inhabited also in Roman times, the village developed in its current forms during the Middle Ages. The first mention of Pitigliano dates back to a papal letter of 1061. At the time the village was already part of the possessions of the Aldobrandeschi counts who maintained control of it until the end of the thirteenth century. During this long period the city was endowed with a fortress and solid defensive walls. In 1293 Pitigliano passed to the Orsini family who, in the 16th century, restructured both the fortress and the other defensive structures of the city. For many centuries the Orsini had to repel the attacks of Siena, Orvieto and Florence and only in 1574 the fortress of Pitigliano was ceded to the Medici. In 1604 the village was definitively annexed to the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and a period of decline began which stopped only with the Lorraine government (XVIII century).

From the 16th century, a large Jewish community was formed in Pitigliano and over time acquired a very important role in the city. Because of this large presence of Jews in the city, Pitigliano has been nicknamed the “Little Jerusalem“.

Inserted in the list of the most beautiful villages in Italy and awarded the Bandiera Arancione, today Pitigliano is one of the hubs of tourism in the Maremma. This town is a real jewel, rich as it is in history, art and culture. Pitigliano is certainly one of the most beautiful things to see in the province of Grosseto.

Things to do in Pitigliano: the guide

Pitigliano has a typically medieval urban structure centered on three main, almost parallel, streets which are connected to each other by a dense network of minor streets. The western side of the historic village, the one defended by the overhang, is entirely occupied by houses. On the opposite side, instead, stands what was once the Rocca degli Aldobrandeschi; it is no coincidence that this  fortress is located here, given that this is the point least protected by the natural conformation of the area.

The things to see in Pitigliano are really numerous, there are several churches such as the Duomo, the Chiesa di Santa Maria e San Rocco and the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie which is located outside the town, the Jewish Ghetto with the Synagogue, many palaces and historic buildings, above all the Palazzo Orsini, very interesting museums and also a wonderful engineering work like the Acquedotto Mediceo.

Acquedotto Mediceo

The entrance to the historic center is from Piazza Petruccioli through a beautiful portal surmounted by the Orsini coat of arms. Before entering it is impossible not to notice on the left the beautiful Acquedotto Mediceo that we find along the initial stretch of the route in via Cavour. The aqueduct was built starting from the mid-sixteenth century following a project by Antonio da San Gallo il Giovane. This impressive work made it possible to transport the water taken from the rivers in the city to the city. The visible part of the aqueduct is characterized by a long series of arches that strongly characterize the appearance of this area of Pitigliano.

things to do in Pitigliano: visit the ancient aqueduct of Pitigliano
Acquedotto Mediceo (Photo by Matteo Vinattieri / CC BY)

Fontana delle Sette Cannelle

After passing the aqueduct, you reach Piazza della Repubblica. The south side of the square is occupied by the monumental Fontana delle Sette Cannelle. This beautiful monumental fountain was built in 1545 and owes its name to the fact that it is equipped with seven pipes for water. The fountain is located just in front of the aqueduct head and therefore draws the water directly from there. Each of the pipe is decorated with a sculpture figure representing the head of an animal.

Fontana delle Sette Cannelle
Fontana delle Sette Cannelle

Palazzo Orsini

Leaving the fountain behind you cross the square until you reach the ex Rocca Aldobrandesca, now known as Palazzo Orsini. The building as we see it today is the result of a long building history made of renovations ranging from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century.

Originally (11th century) the complex was used as a convent but was later acquired by the Aldobrandeschi who transformed it into a fortress from the mid-thirteenth century. Around the middle of the sixteenth century, during the dominion of the Orsini, the fortress was profoundly restructured as it was also in the Lorraine period between 1777 and 1840. Today we can admire the result of all these transformations: an imposing stately building fortified with a keep, defensive towers and high crenellated walls.

Inside the palace, which is also the seat of the diocese of Pitigliano-Sovana-Orbetello, there are two museums: theMuseo di Palazzo Orsini and the Museo Civico Archeologico di Pitigliano.

Museo di Palazzo Orsini

The Museo di Palazzo Orsini is a beautiful museum of sacred art that collects works of art and liturgical furnishings from the Cathedral of Pitigliano and the other churches in the area. The musem is spread over 18 rooms and boasts a large collection of works such as the wooden statue of Madonna and Child by Jacopo della Quercia and the panel Madonna and Child with angels and saints Francesco and Pietro by Guidoccio Cozzarelli.

All information on timetables and tickets can be found on the Palazzo Orsini website.

Museo Civico Archeologico

Gallery but also restoration workshop and warehouse, the Museo Civico Archeologico di Pitigliano houses mainly finds from the Etruscan era from the excavations of the Poggio Buco necropolis and from the finds in Pitigliano.

More information on the official website.

Duomo di Pitigliano

After visiting Palazzo Orsini, I advise you to continue in via Roma towards the Duomo di Pitigliano, the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. Documented as a parish church since the 13th century, the church was renovated on various occasions until it acquired its current Baroque forms.

The facade is very elegant and rich in decorative architectural elements; on the sides of the portal are the statues of Saint Peter (on the left) and Saint Paul (on the right). The interior, with a single nave, preserves some works including a Madonna of the Rosary with Saints by Francesco Vanni.

Pitigliano Cathedral
Cathedral (Photo by trolvag / CC BY)

Chiesa di Santa Maria e San Rocco

Continuing further, on Via Generale Orsini, you reach the westernmost area of the village, the Capisotto district. This ancient neighborhood is an intricate network of irregular lanes which has its center in the Chiesa di Santa Maria e San Rocco. The late Renaissance facade should not deceive you, this church is probably the oldest in all Pitigliano.

Jewish Ghetto

The road to the right of the church, Via Zuccarelli, leads up to the Jewish Ghetto which, together with the Capisotto district, constitutes the oldest part of the town. As I said at the beginning, an important Jewish community was formed in Pitigliano so, in 1589, a Synagogue was built which can be visited today within a path that documents the life of the Jewish community of Pitigliano. In addition to the Synagogue, you can see other places such as the kosher butcher, the oven for the production of unleavened bread and a Jewish museum.

What to do and what to see around Pitigliano

Vie Cave

The Vie Cave are very ancient roads built in the Etruscan era by hand digging the tuff rock found in the area. These paths are really very suggestive, a real show. Some Vie Cave pass in the middle of rocky walls up to 20 meters high, just think how much work must have required the realization of these works! Used as connecting arteries between the various Etruscan settlements and with the necropolises in the area, the Vie Cave are one of the most beautiful testimonies of the Etruscan history of this area. Even today there are some paths to follow by following these ancient paths. Among these there is the one that leads from Pitigliano to Sovana (about 7 km) and the one from Sorano to San Quirico (about 8 km).

What to see in Pitigliano Map of Vie Cave degli Etruschi
Map of the Vie Cave degli Etruschi, click to open (Photo by Comune di Pitigliano)

Museo Archeologico all’aperto “Alberto Manzi”

Born from the idea of protecting the historical-environmental heritage and with a strong didactic value, the Museo Archeologico all’aperto is structured in such a way as to make known the history of the settlement (the city of the living), and then reach, through a road quarry, the Etruscan necropolis of Grandone (the city of the dead) where there are numerous tombs dating back to the period between the second half of the VII until the end of the VI century BC

For information on guided tours, timetables and tickets, I refer you to the official website.

Vie Cave near Pitigliano
Vie Cave

Hamlets near Pitigliano

At a very short distance, less than 10 kilometers, are the villages of Manciano, Sorano and Sovana. These are three beautiful medieval villages characterized by the presence of imposing fortresses and some very interesting museums. Finally, near Pitigliano, I would like to point out the Spa of Sorano and the hot springs of Saturnia with the famous Cascate del Mulino.

How to get to Pitigliano

By car: from Florence (190Km) highway A1 and exit to Chiusi-Chianciano, than take the SP478 cross Sarteano, than Strada Provinciale della Montagna di Cetona, SP321, SP20 and Strada Provinciale Pitigliano – Santa Fiora in the direction of Pitigliano.
From Grosseto (71Km) SP159 till Scansano, then turn on SS323 until you take the SP159, SP10 and SR74 Strada Regionale Maremmana in the direction of Pitigliano.

Train and bus: from Grosseto to Albinia by train; from Albinia to Mancianoby bus (line 41/P Tiemme); from Manciano to Pitigliano by bus (line 16/P Rama).

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