Looking for one of those postcard perfect towns you see on calendars and postcards? After visiting, I seriously wouldn’t be surprised if most of those idyllic pictures were taken here. Pitigliano, is a small town made of volcanic tuff (tufo in Italian) located in the far south of Tuscany. Nestled in the area known as the Maremma, a still rather sleepy part of Toscana, it’s about a three-hour drive from Florence, and about two hours from Siena.
The Etruscans originally inhabited this picture perfect city, but little is know of that original settlement, even if some ruins remain. Instead, Pitigliano’s first dated history is from 1061. For hundreds of years after this date it was a frontier town, straddling the line between the Duchy of Tuscany and the Papal States of Rome. During this period, it also became a safe haven to the Jewish population that had to flee Rome during the Counter Reformation. For that reason, Pitigliano is also known as “little Jerusalem” due to a large historical Jewish population.
If you’re interested in visiting, be warned that there is no quick direct route. You’ll make your way down winding country roads and spend a decent part of the journey far from the highway. If that doesn’t scare you off, you’re in for a treat. Once you’ve arrived, parking is available outside the city center and the whole town can easily be walked and browsed in a few hours.
What to see:
Pitigliano is full of interesting history. Not only can you walk among some truly amazing Etruscan ruins, but you can enjoy the rich influence the Jewish population had on the city by visiting the historic synagogue and ghetto.
Also don’t miss the Medicean aqueduct that was built in the 16th century to bring water up to Pitigliano from a nearby stream.
What to eat and drink:
The town’s Hebraic history also left it’s mark on the food. Try the delicious “sfratto” a pastry made with a filling of nuts, candied oranage peels, and spices. My favorite I tried came from the historical bakery Forno del Ghetto (Via Zuccarelli 167). Bonus: Francesca, the baker, knows everything you could want to know about Pitigliano or it’s history. Definitely stay and chat, she loves to share her knowledge!
Also, since Pitigliano is in the Maremma, wild boar is abundant. Try it in pasta sauce (look for a primo with the word: cinghiale), dried as a salame or even as a kind of slow roasted stew (cinghiale in umido), which is so perfect for a chilly night.
To wash it all down, don’t miss the bianco di Pitigliano. This is a DOC wine produced just in this specific part of Tuscany. It was also one of the first ever wines in Italy to receive a DOC or DOCG label and the bright sunshine in this region helps to create a crisp and floral white, absolutely worth trying.
I highly recommend taking in the view of nearby Sorano from the Fortezza Orsini. Just a 15 minute drive from Pitligliano, you can park at the Fortezza then walk to the embankment of the fort, climb up the metal steps, and enjoy the marvelous scenery below.