I know I shared an insider’s guide for Florence last week, but I didn’t really feel qualified to give it since I don’t visit Florence all that often. That said, I am an expert when it comes to all things Maremma and in particular when it comes to one of our most beloved towns, Pitigliano.
Pitigliano is like something out of a fairytale. The town is carved from a local stone called tufa and perched on a cliff of the same material. During the day, the towering palazzos and breathtaking aqueduct are beautiful, but at night they take on an enchanting quality. Lights are lit in the wisterias beneath the cliff and the entire town looks at is it’s grown out of the ground, mimicking the gnarled roots of a tree. You’ll feel like you’ve stumbled out of reality and into Game of Thrones.
Pitigliano is probably one of the best known and most popular towns in Southern Tuscany. The Huffington Post recently named it one of the must see Italian destinations before you die. With its Jewish heritage, incredible exterior beauty and great shops, you can understand why!
aaand Pitigliano night!
Pitigliano is surrounded by unspoilt countryside pretty much on all sides
beautiful autumn colours
this is the Pitigliano farmer’s best friend, his donkey or villanu in the local dialect
only in Italy can you find beautiful alleys made even more beautiful by hanging vines!
pumpkins – a local autumn favourite!
The very enchanting entrance to the Jewish quarter
This bakery makes the best sfratto, if you want to taste a local delicacy
symbols of the town’s Renaissance rulers, the Orsini
she’s not my nonna, but she’s gorgeous nonetheless
Pitigliano is almost more beautiful from the outside than from within, so make sure you stop on the Strada Panoramica that connects the town. The view from here is breathtaking and there are even special parking spaces where you can stop and get a fantastic snap.
Inside, Pitigliano is a fairly modern town. It has Roman and even Etruscan roots, but most of its palazzos aren’t more than 300 years old. Still, the town has a real sense of authenticity. It’s probably a C-list celebrity in terms of Italian attractions, which is not a bad thing! It means you can wander its gorgeous streets without being bombarded by souvenir shops and tourist menus.
The main strip is called Via Zuccharelli. As you wander, look to your left for regular alleys that open into panoramic piazzas that offer amazing views of the surrounding countryside.
Pitigliano has two museums located within what is known as Palazzo Orsini. It was the home of the ruling noble families throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, but is more of a fortress than a palace. It houses the diocesan museum, which is a collection of religious treasures, and the archaeological museum, which is a small exhibition of Etruscan and Roman bits and pieces.
The must-see attraction in Pitigliano is its Jewish quarter. For almost three centuries, Pitigliano was home to a large Jewish community and was even nicknamed Little Jerusalem. Many of its residents left after WWII, but their quarter has been preserved and transformed into a museum. You can visit the old bakery, butcher and wine cellar, much of which was carved underground into the tufa rock, as well as the lively synagogue. The museum is open every day except Saturday and costs a few euro to visit.
I love, love, love to shop in Pitigliano. It has some amazing artisan shops and galleries. My number one is Altaluna, a very cute ceramic store where an artist transforms fairytales and Tuscan legends into paintings, stationary and irresistible figurines. Her boyfriend makes pottery and dishware next door by hand.
Pitigliano has its fair share of gourmet shops selling local cheese, wines, preserves and cold cuts. The must-try item is always wild boar salami. It’s a Maremman delicacy and something you won’t forget. It doesn’t taste strange, trust me. It’s simply a more decisive pork flavour.
On the subject of food, Pitigliano is a great place to eat out. For a snack, try the sfratto di Pitigliano, a Slow Food certified biscuit created by the town’s Jewish community and masterfully reproduced by the bakery located next door to the Jewish quarter. It has a soft and chewy centre of figs and spiced nuts with a crunchy pastry exterior.
As for my top pick of restaurants, I visited Hosteria Ceccottino, which is in front of the Duomo, last night and would definitely return. It serves hearty Tuscan food, so soups, homemade ravioli, stewed rabbit and plenty of wild boar. And although it’s a bit pricey, the atmosphere is nice and you won’t be disappointed by the fare.
For a more complete guide to Pitigliano, check out my travel website.