South of Grosetto, the southern most large city in the Tuscan Province, stands the village of Pitigliano. Though it was not until the 11th Century that written records first mention this village, evidence of both Etruscan and 5th Century Christian presence have been discovered. The commanding position of the village, surrounded by valleys, is a spectacular sight regardless of how you approach the ancient walls.
During the 16th Century, city and state governments in Italy moved their Jewish populations into Ghettos. Many of those Jews who had been closed within the Ghettos of Siena, Florence and other cities began to move to the little-known, quiet, retreat of Pitigliano.
This is not meant to imply that Jews lived an easy life in these times; it was never easy. Despite requirements to wear certain types of clothing to mark themselves “Jew”, the closely knit community made a reasonable life for themselves in the tiny village.
The town’s unique geography includes a maze of spaces within the tufa that were created by prehistoric volcanoes or carved by those who sought shelter.
It is a curious twist of both Italian and Jewish history that this small town became a refuge for those seeking a more peaceful and protected way to life.
Some friends who live near Florence related the story that, during World War II, the non-Jewish residents of Pitigliano hid and protected the Jewish community, literally, under the village. Chambers once used by the ancients became a refuge for those persecuted. Throughout the war the townspeople stood resolute in their determination to protect the innocent.
I must admit to a certain ‘ache’ when I visit Pitigliano. The domination of religions and the persecution of centuries all seem very raw even in the narrow lanes and streets of this lovely Tuscan village. When I have explored the tufa spaces beneath the city, I have felt the presence of those who have gone before. At sunset, when the bells of churches toll there is, for many visitors, a clear sense of the terrible cost exacted from those whose religious beliefs were in conflict with the ‘powers that were’.
IF YOU GO:
The easiest access to Pitigliano if you do not have a car is by train. Trains connect Grosetto with both Rome and Florence and run on a regular basis throughout the day. Once you arrive by train you can take one of the numerous buses which travel to/from the village. Buses leave from directly in front of the train station in Grosetto.
If, however, you have a car, I strongly encourage you to add a day’s visit to this fascinating and historic village.
Bus schedules and details can be found here: RAMA Grosetto
There is one hotel within the city walls, the Albergo Guastini. This is an intimate hotel and its location offers immediate access to the village.
Piazza Petruccioli, 4, 58017 Pitigliano Grosseto, Italy
Tel: +39 0564 61410
Outside of the city walls, there are numerous choices. Most will require a car to visit the city if you choose one of these accommodations.
S.S 74 Maremmana Ovest,
58017 Pitigliano Province of Grosseto, Italy
Tel: +39 0564 616112
Via Valle Orientina, S.R. 74 , 58017 Pitigliano, Province of Grosseto, Italy
Sites to visit:
- The Orsini Fortress, which achieved its present state in 1545 but represents a reworking of the earlier medieval fortress
- the town’s walls and gates, the best preserved of which is the Porta Sovana.
- The Cathedral of San Pietro e Paolo
- The Jewish Synagogue and Museum
Quiet Corner of Pitigliano
(Note: You might enjoy trying the Bianca di Pitigliano, a local white wine produced from the vineyards surrounding the village.)
Il Tufo Allegro
Vicolo della Costituzione, 5
58017 Pitigliano Italy
My favorite. Slow Food, beautifully prepared with lovingly served. Don’t expect fancy. Expect exceptional food.
(no web site)
*I have never eaten at this restaurant, though the reviews are consistently good and friends say it is equal to “Il Tufo Allegro”.
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