Cities of Tuff: Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana

The Cities of Tuff are located at the south-eastern borders of Grosseto’s province and they include Sorano, Pitigliano and Sovana municipalities.

Geographically the area is defined by Monte Amiata and the borders with Lazio and stretches to the hills of Albegna and Fiora rivers.

The whole area is characterized by tuffaceous rocks that are an evident part of the landscape and its buildings.

What first strikes travelers here is that time seems to stand still. Perched on steep hills in shades of sand color, the Cities of Tuff are a one-hour drive from Terre di Sacra.

Most of the territory is made of hills with the exception of Monte Amiata, an inactive volcano and involuntary tuff maker. During hot summer days, climbing up the the Cities of Tuff’s hills is a pleasant and refreshing experience.

Tuff is the most characterizing feature of the entire area

This territory is characterized by huge jagged tuff spurs with caves dug into the rock that were once inhabited and still used today as storehouses.

The history of this part of Maremma is profoundly bound to the presence of tuff. Over the ages, this material has enabled prehistoric, Etruscan and medieval people to exploit and mold the territory, building necropolis, cutting rock to create roads, digging it to make houses, graves and much more.

Tuff is characterized by being a relatively ‘soft’ rock to dig: that’s why ancient people could use this material to erect buildings stronger than wooden ones. When exposed to air, tuff becomes more solid: this makes it possible to heighten buildings and extend their depth without structural risks. Such feature is reflected in the Cities of Tuff, where houses lean on each other making them appear as one with rock spurs underneath.

Pitigliano, a.k.a. Little Jerusalem

Legend has it that two young Romans, Celiano and Petilio, had stolen Jupiter’s golden crown. To escape the King of the Gods’ rage they sought refuge in this area’s countryside, founding the city that was named after Petiliano and later became, over the following centuries, Pitigliano.

Pitigliano’s history is actually older than what is told by the legend. There is evidence that the territory had been inhabited since the Neolithic Age.

The Etruscans mark the real beginning of this small Tuscan city’s history building the famous Vie Cave, ways of communication and defense excavated by hand from the tuffaceous rock. Not to be missed is a tour of the Etruscan necropolis and the fascinating surrounding archeological park.

Pitigliano has been called Little Jerusalem because it has been giving hospitality to a large Jewish community since the sixteenth century. You can still see the Ghetto and the Synagogue. Pitigliano is one of the most fascinating historical villages in Italy and a destination you cannot miss during your cultural holiday in Maremma.

Medieval town of Pitigliano at sunset, Tuscany, Italy

Sorano and Sovana between light and shadows

Sorano, and its smaller frazione (subdivision) Sovana, are part of the Cities of Tuff district. They are both wonderful villages excavated from the rock of tuffaceous hills. Their history reflects that of borderline cities between Rome, Siena and Florence: subject to disputes, fights, conquests.

What makes them famous nowadays are the impressive ancient ruins of Etruscan necropolis which attract thousands of travelers every year.

In particular, the necropolis of Sovana can be visited with children thanks to easy itineraries and guides who can be reserved in advance. Roads crossing the necropolis and buildings still visible in the present time are well known for their beauty and uniqueness.

Sovana is also known for the production of a delicious D.O.C. wine, red and rosé. Food and wine tradition is worth a journey to the Cities of Tuff.

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