Pitigliano di Notte – City of Tuff – Called the “Little Jerusalem” – Tuscan Maremma (Photo by Andrea Mearelli)

The Tufo Area is a splendid territory located in the southern part of the Tuscan Maremma (Grosseto), along the Fiora hills, on which the medieval villages of the famous tuff cities rise: Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano.

The tuff area is a mysterious and fascinating territory, rich in tuffaceous rocks on which there are ancient villages, medieval fortifications and centers of Etruscan origin. Developed in the heart of the Fiora hills, in the south-eastern part of the Province of Grosseto, it includes the municipalities of Sorano and Pitigliano, and a part of Castell’Azzara can also be included. The Tuff – a very friable magmatic rock – is the real protagonist in this southern area of the Maremma Grossetana, a large hilly area characterized by false plateaus of volcanic origin, gorges and ravines created over time by waterways. These were ideal places for ancient human settlements.

The Tufo City of Sorano – Tufo Area – Tuscan Maremma (Photo by LellaViola)

In fact, dwellings, monumental necropolises and unusual roads have been excavated in the tuff since the earliest times, such as the vie cave that connect the various settlements and necropolises in the area between Sovana, Sorano and Pitigliano.

These ways, also called Etruscan shortcuts, are long corridors of one kilometer and three meters wide, with walls even twenty high, probably traced by the Etruscans as a defense system against possible invaders and to connect inhabited centers with waterways; however, numerous hypotheses have been made about their real function.

The Tufo Area in Maremma contains enchantment, beauty, mystery and centuries of history: everything in these parts really seems to stand still in time.

In the surroundings of Pitigliano, one of the most evocative villages of the Tuscan Maremma, called the Little Jerusalem for the large Jewish community, there are eight of these cyclopean routes. An ingenious rainwater canalization system divides the quarry into two parts, creating two wide sidewalks. These areas have now become the refuge of many endangered animals, being also characterized by ideal microclimates for the reproduction of rare floristic species. In prehistoric times the northwestern side of Lake Bolsena, that is the hilly Maremma, was an active volcano that covered the whole area with ashes and washes (together with the eruptions of the other Maremma volcano: Monte Amiata). For this reason, to the east of Saturnia and the course of the Fiora River, the Maremma seems to change its face, and around Pitigliano, Sorano and Sovana the vineyards and olive groves alternate with deep canyons carved into the tuff by the rivers and their tributaries. The impervious terrain has limited the development of agriculture, which is mainly based on olive trees and vineyards, leaving extensive woods and forests intact, which mark the border between the Province of Grosseto and that of Viterbo, that is, between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the State Pontifical of the past. A dense network of paths runs through the entire territory.

City of Tufo Archaeological Park (Sorano – Sovana – Vitozza)

The Citt√† del Tufo Archaeological Parkwas created in the municipality of Sorano, which also includes the charming village of Sovana. Inaugurated in 1998 (with the aim of enhancing and protecting the very important historical-cultural heritage that has remained unchanged for centuries), it covers 60 hectares and is the vast container of the main historical and archaeological treasures of the area, namely the Etruscan necropolis of Sovana, one of the most extraordinary for the variety of tombs. There are in fact of every type: chamber, box, cube, half cube, temple, aedicule, niche, columbarium. Characteristic is the location of the tombs, on rocky walls, between valleys and valleys, in a scenario that suggests Dante’s hell. The archaeological park also includes the Etruscan museum of Sovana and the Renaissance one of Sorano, various sites, such as Vitozza and Poggio San Rocco and some vie cave.