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The medieval hill town of Pitigliano is situated in a dramatic position 300 metres high above a plain, in a natural defensive position that is further enhanced by the presence of fortified walls. The town is within the Grosseto Province in the southern part of Tuscany.
This southern region of Tuscany is much less visited by tourists than the villages and towns further north, so Pitigliano has been much less impacted by tourism than you would expect.
Before you even arrive in Pitigliano itself, the remarkable view of the village, with tall medieval houses squeezed together along a rocky spur, is among the highlights of a visit.
Your visit to Pitigliano itself can start in the square called Piazza Pietruccioli. From here you have access to the ancient fortified citadel and also its main square, called Piazza Garibaldi. The principal sights with Pitigliano are all close to here, starting perhaps in nearby Piazza Cavour where you can admire the arches of a mighty aqueduct built in the 16th century by Gian Francesco Orsini.
The great Palace of the Orsini (the Orsini were medieval lords of the city) can be seen in the Piazza della Repubblica. The Palace stands as a veritable fortress and is built in a variety of styles, medieval and renaissance in particular, as a result of the different times of its expansion and restructuring.
Hence the tower and courtyard are in a Medieval style, and contrast with a portal lavishly decorated with the emblem of the Orsini Family, in Renaissance style.
Pitigliano Civic Archaeology Museum
The Palace of the Orsini now houses the Civic Museum and features hundreds of archaeological finds from the Etruscan age, in particular pottery that has been engraved or painted in white on a red background. Many items in the Civic Museum originate from excavations in the necropolis of “Poggio Buco” (where about 26 graves were discovered) and are characterized by their geometric decorations.
Highlights in the museum include an ancient 'biconical' vase painted with geometric patterns from the second half of the 8th century BC and once used as an urn, and the “kantharos” (a cup with two handles), with braided handles from the 7th century BC.
Also in the Museum of the Orsini there are many rooms with collections of sacred objects, coins, sculptures, paintings on wood, and works by local painters Francesco Zuccarelli (1702-1788), Pietro Aldi (1852-1888) and Paride Pascucci (1866-1954).
Your children of course might prefer the display of medieval torture equipment...
Continuing along Via Roma you find some of the most beautiful and important buildings of the city such as the 'Petruccioli House' and the 'Incontri House', notable especially for its balcony and entrance in travertine marble.
At the end of Via Roma you enter Piazza San Gregorio where you see the facade of the cathedral.
The façade of Pitigliano Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul dates from the early 18th century and has an entrance in Renaissance style with stuccos depicting angels holding the cross.To the left of the cathedral is the romanesque style bell tower, originally built for defensive purposes.
On the sides there are niches with statues of Saints Peter and Paul and a bas-relief in Carrara marble representing the “Assumption with St. Rocco and St. Francis”.
The interior of the cathedral has a nave with two side chapels that contain some interesting paintings by local painter Francesco Zuccarelli ('St. Michael' and 'The souls in Purgatory').
Continue along Via Generale Orsini to reach the Church of Santa Maria with a façade dating from the 16th century, divided by pilaster strips and which has a portal surmounted by a tympanum. The interior has three naves, with columns of travertine.
Proceeding from the Church of Santa Maria along Via Zucconelli you wiill find yourself immersed in a series of narrow streets and alleys that are the most evocative region of Pitigliano and very picturesque thanks to the uninterrupted succession of houses and ancient buildings including the 18th century 'Monte di Pietà' and 'Scrittoio delle Fortezze'.
Historically Pitigliano had a very important Jewish community based in this part of the town, now remembered in the synagogue and a small museum. In days gone by the town was even known as La Piccola Gerusalemme (or Little Jerusalem). The community came about because in the 16th century Jews in Pitigliano under the rule of Count Niccolo Orsini IV were reasonably free to co-exist with Christians, whereas elsewhere in Italy they were subject to harsh segregation rules.
Pitigliano also retains its own particular charm outside the city walls such as in Orsini Park, where you can admire statues and other artefacts now worn by time.
Pitigliano cuisine and wines
A visit to the surrounding region will help you appreciate the traditional gastronomy and wine of this part of Tuscany, such as the famous wine called Bianco di Pitigliano, which gets its special flavour from the tufaceous lands that are characteristic of the area of Pitigliano and Grosseto.
In restaurants you can sample the typical dishes of the Maremma: traditional sheep and goat cheeses, “crostini” [canapés] with vegetables, and pate with bacon.
Among the first courses, we suggest the ravioli with sheep's milk; ricotta and spinach with butter and sage; ravioli with ragout, with fresh tomato and basil. Among the main courses, you can taste the lamb in white wine with artichokes of Pitigliano; the suckling pig with potato; and the Maremma wild boar.
There are various interesting walks to follow nearby - ask for details in Pitigliano tourist office on Piazza Garibaldi.The most interesting take you down to the bottom of the rocky outcrop where you get a new perspective on the town itself and can also see some ancient Etruscan caves and tombs carved into the soft rock along the ancient Etruscan 'sacred ways' (called Vie Cave).
You can find more local travel ideas in the Tuscany guide.