Pitigliano

The town is situated on a steep tuff rock, 313 metres above sea-level. The area of Pitigliano and far to the south of Rome is characterised by tuff stone, a hardened type of volcanic magma. The typical Tuscan landscape with small farm houses on soft hills is rarely found here. South Tuscany is wild and many sided, similar to neighbouring Latio, the area around Rome. Small creeks have cut steep valleys into the landscape and there is a lot of woodland. Not far from Pitigliano is Lake Bolsena, a huge water-filled crater and the largest Italian lake. From Siena you can see Mount Amiata, an isolated volcano 1738 metres high, and a favourite skiing area in winter. Near the coast are extended flat zones, which were notorious for malaria contamination up to the 1930’s. This was the area that was home for famous bandits like Domenico Tiburzi. Nowadays the Maremma coast 50 kilometres from Pitigliano has beautiful beaches that are hardly developed.

Southern Tuscany was once one of the most important centres of the Etruscans. There are numerous cave-tombs of that period around Pitigliano, caves cut deep into the tuff, that are today used as cellars and sheds. Later Pitigliano became Roman. There’s hardly anything left from this period. But under the town houses are cellars in use which have lots of little niches, in which 2000 years ago the urns of the dead used to stand.

In mediaeval times, from the 9 th century on, the Langobard family Aldobrandesci ruled the region of Pitigliano. After 1312 the Orsini family took over and from 1604 the Medici’s.

Although it is clear that Pitigliano and its area were inhabited in Etruscan times, the first extant written mention of Pitigliano dates only to 1061 . In the early 13th century it belonged to the Aldobrandeschi family, and by the middle of the century it had become the capital of the surrounding county. In 1293 the county passed to the Orsini family, which signaled the start of a hundred and fifty years of on-again, off-again wars with Siena , at the end of which, in 1455, a compromise of sorts was reached: Siena acknowledged that Pitigliano was a county, Pitigliano placed herself under the suzerainty of Siena. From thence onwards, the history of Pitigliano resorbs into the gradually wider ambit first of the Grand-Duchy of Tuscany ( 1562 ), then of the united Kingdom of Italy.

Of further interest is the Jewish history of Pitigliano. For a long time there was an extraordinary large Jewish community, that influenced the cultural life of the town together with the gentile population.