July 24, 2018
Nearly everyone who visits Italy hits the magic triad of Rome/Florence/Venice. And they are magic. You could spend months in those three cities alone. I visit them often myself, over and over again. But there are quiet jewels off the beaten path that are worth a visit and, thankfully, have very few tourists. One of them is Pitigliano.
Somewhere between Rome and Florence you can step back in time in the Maremma region of Tuscany. Atop a gigantic outcropping of Tufa sits Pitigliano, a town first founded before the common era. It has been populated by ancient man, Etruscans,
Romans, and the Medici.
The entire town seems ancient beyond time. I love the homes hanging from the cliffside
Built during medieval times.
As I wandered I was enchanted by the winding streets
And getting lost among the locals.
What we see now is a combination of all these people.
I particularly love the archways framing the views and holding up one person’s balcony.
This alone would be reason enough to visit Pitigliano. You could spend a quiet night or two enjoying the local people and this space.
But there is more history here.
Pitigliano is also known as La Piccola Gerusalemme, or Little Jerusalem.
Over the centuries, the Jewish communities throughout the Italian States have been faced with rejection and prejudice as they have elsewhere. However, the Orsini rulers of Pitigliano chose to invite and welcome Jews and boost the economy.
Catholics and Jews lived peacefully side by side until the Medici family took over Pitigliano. At that time, Hebrew males were required to wear red hats and women wore red badges. All were forced to live in their own area, the Jewish Ghetto which you can visit today.
In the Jewish Quarter, they created all that their religion required There were several areas such as the Mikvah, or ritual baths, wine making,
Overall, The Jewish community lived peacefully. Many had moved on to other locations after the Unification of Italy when they were granted equality and freedom to move throughout the country. That all changed with the onset of World War II.
Many Jews were sheltered by their lifelong friends in Pitigliano and the surrounding area. But most were lost. The plaque below lists “the children of our community who lost their lives in the horrible Nazi Extermination camps.”
And now, only a very few people of the Jewish faith remain in Pitigliano. Yet, those who do keep their history available for all who visit. They keep their synagogue even though there is no Rabbi to lead them.
And they welcome all who wish to visit.
The history of Pitigliano is as diverse as its people and town today. I will return to walk these paths again, to hear more stories and to enjoy strolling through the past. Let me know how I may assist you with adding Pitigliano to your Italian travel adventure. I know you will love it.
Ciao for now!
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