Pitigliano: Hidden Jewel of Tuscany

June 21, 2013 / Places
Pitigliano, Tuscany

Tucked into the Southwest part of Tuscany, the Maremma is an unspoilt and wild place filled with horses and cattle. Rising steeply above the rugged plain perched on an outcropping of tufa is the tiny town of Pitigliano, with its vertical homes and Etruscan caves and surrounded on all sides by deep ravines.


Passing through the only entrance in the 13th C. Porta Sovana gate and walking along the 16th C. Medicean Aquaduct, the few tourists who wander here are greeted warmly. Definitely off the beaten path, it is a unique place to visit when in southern Tuscany or Umbria.

Dominated by the Fortress built on an old Franciscan monastery by the powerful Aldobrandeschi family, the Palazzo within became the seat of the Orsini’s who ruled the entire Sovana area from 1293 until 1608. The Palazzo Orsini is an elegant Renaissance residence, now housing several museums and well worth the visit to see how the other half lived!


The well in the courtyard has carvings of the lineage of the Counts of Pitigliano and a gallery of rooms opens one into another stretching the length of the Palazzo.

Delicate and ornate frescoes cover the walls and ceilings of each room.

The bedroom of the last Count is surprisingly simple but with impressive views over his entire domain.



Colleen Simpson

by Colleen Simpson

Colleen followed a long-held dream and made a home in Piegaro, which is a pristine medieval glass-making village south of Lago Trasimeno in Umbria. She is the innkeeper at www.anticavetreria.net.

9 Responses to “Pitigliano: Hidden Jewel of Tuscany”

  1. Linda Boccia

    Hi Colleen:

    We lived in Lucca a couple of years ago and spent 6 months there and we had heard about the Maremma, but did not go to see Pitigliano, because we had not heard of it specifically. What a shame to have missed. We traveled extensively and my husband was born in Rome and we both speak Italian. Would you have needed a car to get there or was there public transportation in any way?

  2. Jo Pearlman

    We visited Pitigliano a few years ago. I found it eerie and sad. It was once the home of a thriving Jewish community. During WWII they were deported and few came back. There is a lovely restored Jewish quarter, bakery and Temple there. Although restored the Jewish population did not return. There is a lovely and very interesting cook book published by a former resident. The commentaries and descriptions of the community as it had been are wonderful. I highly recomend it.

  3. Mary Rapoport

    I was also surprised at the omission of the Jewish Ghetto as the town was known in history a “Little Jerusalem.” Jews moved there in the 14th century to flee persecution in Rome and lived in harmony with the Christian population for several hundred years. In fact they comprised 50% of this thriving town. We visited the Temple (built in 1598) which has been beautifully restored and the caves which housed the old bakery and ritual baths. We have been there twice and have had two wonderful meals in the Piazza San Gregori VII at at Hostaria del Ceccottino (at the sign of the Rabbit). A must!

  4. Ginny Siggia

    Is this the book? “Classic Italian Jewish Cooking: Traditional Recipes and Menus” by Edda Servi Machlin. I found it on Amazon. There are many used copies available for under $20 (+$4 postage). The “new” cost is about $60. Thanks so much for sharing this story.

  5. harvey rabiner

    Pitigliano is a beutiful and wondrous town; you leisurely stroll down one side and up the other delightfully clicking away at the architectural details. the colorful plants set out in a mini courtyard and the many delightful human touches that characterize these eminently civilized and graceful people. Have dinner in the restaurant at the main gate and you must stay until dark when the town is stunnungly and dramatically lit up from below.

  6. Colleen Simpson

    To clarify Mary and Jo: I am writing a companion piece about the Jewish Ghetto which deserves a Note all to itself. Due to the limitations of words allowed editorially in a Note, I was not able to adequately describe the rich history of this “Little Jerusalem”. Sorry that you did not understand. In this Note I tried to cover another aspect of its history. Pitigliano is well worth a visit and is accessible by car.

  7. Audrey

    Colleen, thanks for your article and bit of history. I have been interested in this area for many years and am hoping to visit some day. Do you have any information about the family name of PITIGLIANO? I appreciate any info or tips to explore. Audrey

  8. Colleen Simpson

    So happy that you, too, enjoyed Pitigliano Harvey!!

    Audrey: I do not know of any information on family name of Pitigliano. However, that being said, people who immigrated into North America from Italy often took the name of the town from which they came. There are no people within Pitigliano by that name now that I could find in the census. But you could do a search on Ancestry.com, a worthwhile search site! I do hope that you come to visit this area someday.

  9. Cara Colleen,

    Grazie for sharing about still another of Italy’s many “hidden jewels”. My list is getting longer…

    A presto,


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