During your stay at the Terme di Saturnia, some enchanting Maremman places well worth a visit and only short drive away serve as a great complement to the charm and relaxation on offer at the Resort. Wonderful small villages, like precious caskets of art and culture, play the role of jealous custodians of those ancient traditions and cultural facets that make a civilization what it is. Our itineraries aim to serve as useful suggestions or as inspiration for those designing their own tailor-made trip.
The hidden charms of Manciano and the austere beauty of its Old Town can only really be experienced by strolling along its narrow alleyways. Its ancient centre is set around a hill, almost entirely surrounded by a thirteenth century town wall, of which extensive sections, towers and a gateway can still be seen. Other watchtowers were later converted into houses, with evocative overlapping between the different historical periods. The alleyways spiral like a labyrinth with arches, stairways and small pizzas providing visitors with an uncanny sense of disorientation.
It’s a little jewel of Renaissance architecture, long contested between Siena, Florence and Orvieto and the powerful Orsini family of Pitigliano. The historical importance of this village is evident in its Piazza del Castello, encircled by ancient houses and its defensive gateways dating from the Sienese period; its famous church, the Chiesa di San Giorgio with its splendid frescoes and the works of the masters of the fourteenth and sixteenth century Sienese schools such as Sano di Pietro, Vecchietta (Lorenzo di Pietro) and Andrea di Niccolò.
The origins of the village are lost in the mists of time. Numerous archaeological finds are evidence the region was inhabited even before the arrival of the Etruscans. Saturnia became a thriving agricultural and trading centre following the Roman conquest of Etruria in 280 BC, assuming a growing importance to become the ‘municipium’ of the whole region. Highlights are the Piazza Vittorio Veneto, the urban section of the Via Clodia (180 BC) with the remains of its original Roman paving, the Porta Romana and the remnants of its Etruscan wall, the ancient spa ruins known as the Bagno Secco; the Castello Ciacci fortress and the Aldobrandeschi road.
Like its neighbours in the ‘Tufa Area’, Pitigliano also has Etruscan origins. The town is surrounded by numerous archaeological sites dating from the seventh to the second centuries BC. Its name probably dates back to the era of the Roman conquest. An ancient legend tells how two Roman exiles robbed the crown from the statue of Jupiter Stator in Rome’s Campidoglio and fled to Etruria. They took refuge on the inaccessible tufaceous spur upon which the town now stands. The two exiles, Pitiglio and Ciliano, decided to found a new town there and called it ‘Pitigliano’. Pitigliano experienced a long development over the centuries, up to the fall of the Roman Empire. In medieval times it was one of many castles owned by the Aldobrandeschi, but as a result of the marriage between Anastasia Aldobrandeschi and Romano Orsini, the whole fiefdom passed to that noble Roman family. The town underwent considerable growth to become of the most important centres of the Upper Maremma. Moreover, in the sixteenth century it became a refuge for the large number of Jews forced to leave the Papal States. The large Jewish community that was created as a result still exists today and over the centuries earnt Pitigliano the epithet of ‘Little Jerusalem’. Today Pitigliano is one of the region’s largest towns and the centre of the Tufa Area’s social, economic and administrative life. The best place to start is the church, the Santuario della Madonna delle Grazie, offering a memorable view of the town and the tufa spur on which it is set. Also recommended are its defensive fortifications; its Medici aqueduct; the Palazzo Orsini; its Cathedral; the Chiesa di San Rocco; the “Capisotto” quarter; the Jewish quarter and the Synagogue.
The village of Sorano, perched on a steep tufa hill, is surrounded by the deep valley of the river Lente which provided it with a very important strategic position. Its first historical evidence, as demonstrated by the surrounding archeological area, dates from the Etruscan period. The first humble town was subsequently developed after the Roman conquest of Etruria (280 BC) but it was only in medieval times that the Aldobrandeschi, lords of Sovana and of the Maremma, constructed its first important castle. Passing in marriage to the Roman Orsini family, it was subsequently reinforced by the construction of a new and imposing military structure. Nowadays Sorano has an almost perfectly preserved Old Town.
Not to miss: the Fortezza Orsini, whose defences were built between the twelfth and sixteenth centuries and its evocative communication tunnels, an unusual feat of military engineering; the Chiesa di San Nicola, the Palazzo Comitale, the Masso Leopoldino, which consists of a natural tufaceous terracing situated right in the middle of the village and lords over the Lente valley; the Porta dei Merli gateway; the Jewish Ghetto and lastly, on the road to Sovana, the Necropoli di San Rocco, which affords a sublime panorama of the village.
Of all the hillside towns of inland Maremma, Sovana is the most important. An Etruscan town par excellence, it is set on a tufa spur which has safeguarded it since ancient times. Today the town is a perfect example of medieval architecture in an excellent state of preservation. Strolling along its streets, paved in red brickwork in the Sienese manner, seems like entering an elegant drawing room, furnished by monuments that recount of past splendours. Worth a visit are: Piazza del Pretorio, one of Italy’s top 100 most beautiful piazzas; the Chiesa di Santa Maria; the Palazzo dell’Archivio; the Palazzo Pretorio; the Chiesa di San Mamiliano, housing Sovana’s new archaeological museum and its Cathedral, with its perfectly preserved Romanesque architecture. Not to be missed is the Etruscan necropolis, whose Rock Tombs bestow a halo of mystery.