What to see in Pitigliano

SOUTHERN TUSCANY’S MAGNIFICENT SECRET

As you approach Pitigliano your heart will stop at the magnificent sight. The Medieval town rises out of the landscape on its ‘tufa mound’. This clifftop location inspired the towns distinctive architecture. Steep stairways shoot up from the pavements into narrow tall houses, terraces are carved onto rocky promontories. Streets are narrow and the stone steps are polished, Viccolo Sdruccciolo actually means ‘slippery street’. Even the church is an irregular shape, making use of the space available between roads. Cellars wind their way beneath the town, put your hand against any gap in the stone walls and feel the cool air, ideal for storing wine. The green valley is glimpsed at the end of streets, until you reach the town walls where the views are simply spectacular.

Strolling about, you gain a sense of how life used to be. Traditional crafts continue, a lady sits in her porch working intricate chiacchierino, or ‘tatting’. There are weavers and leather craftsmen. The wide streets entering town, slope gently which helped livestock navigate the steepness. There are many fountains and troughs built to quench their thirst.

Pitigliano has a significant history. Time is inscribed in the stone walls, there is an extremely rare stretch of Etruscan wall, embedded between medieval and contemporary renovations. The crenelated fortress began life in 1100 and was home to the powerful Orsini family from the 1400s. From the market square to churches you might notice references to the Orsini in carvings of the bear, lion and rose.

It was the Orsini who began the strong relationship with the Jewish community. Looking up at the town you can see the church and synagogue have equal prominence. A whole Jewish community thrived here with their own dye works, ritual baths and matzoh oven. Indeed Pitigliano is also known as “Little Jerusalem”.

Come to Pitigliano in October for the sagra, four sociable days sharing crostini, cheese and delicious local wine. Then follows the winter months when it is so quiet, neighbours treat the streets like the corridors of their home. Meanwhile enjoy an aperitivo in the main square, listen to the church bells and imagine them chiming home local Pitiglianos.