PITIGLIANO: Jewish Heritage and Medieval History in Italy

Pitigliano.  Photo:  Roman Harak

Photo:  Romas Harak

Referred to as The Little Jerusalem because of its historical Jewish community and local Synagogue, Pitigliano is a town in the province Grosseto, Italy that was built of tufa rock.

The first written mention of Pitigliano was in 1061 AD.  In its early establishment, Pitigliano underwent a number of transformations and ownership.  The House of Aldobrandeschi owned Pitigliano it in the early thirteenth century and the town later became the capital of the surrounding county.  By 1293, ownership of Pitigliano had shifted to the Orsini family.  This shift was the start of a century long war with Siena.  However, a compromised was reached in 1455:  Sienna acknowledged the status of to Pitigliano in exchange for being placed under the sovereignty of Siena.

Etruscan Necroplis Tomb of the Winged Demons, Archaeological Park Città del Tufo.  Photo:  EBiggs Vancouver

Some of the most interesting remains of the Etruscan period can be found in Pitigliano. The walls of Tufa rock reveal a few inscriptions from this period. The man-made cuts on the Tufa rocks show that they would have served some purpose for the local inhabitants. The bottoms of the rocks were cut for channels, which indicate that they served as either roads or for transport of water.

The town also holds some fascinating monuments. Some of the older structures in the town, such as the Church of Santa Maria, the Orsini fortress and the former cathedral of Pietro Paolo, have all gone through a lot of renovation and reconstruction over the years. The view from the cathedral is definitely the main attraction. It overlooks the Palace of the Community and the Palace of Justice (aka the Piazza San Gregorio).

The Synagogue of Pitigliano dates back to the 1500s, and biblical verses can still be seen inscribed into the walls. Other famous examples of religious architecture that are worth visiting include the Oratory of the Holy Cross, the Church of San Rocco and the Church of St Anthony. Other must-see religious destinations are the Church of San Michele, the Oratory Rock, the Church of Our Lady of the Flowers, the Chapel of the Holy Apostles James and Philip, the Jewish Cemetery, the Convent of St Francis and the Church of San Francisco.

If religious architecture is not your thing, Pitigliano also has a few civil buildings that may be of interest to you. Built during the mid-sixteenth century, the Medicean Aqueduct was used to pump water from nearby streams to wherever it was needed. Also from the mid-sixteenth century is the Fountain of Seven Taps. Twin Fountains is found in the Republic Square. It is aptly named, as there is a fountain in the south and another in the north. Eagle Castle is a medieval fortress with well-preserved ruins and is located near the river Fiora. Finally, you may be interested in the Diocesan Museum, the Open Air Museum and the Jewish Trail, which are all found in Pitigliano.

About the Author

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Doug Arnold is a Canadian-born Australian living in Brisbane.  His love of travel has inspired his other passion of cooking exotic-tasting meals from many different countries. He shares these recipes on his Youtube cooking channel, “Just Eat It” with best mate, Jason. Together, they are famous (well, infamous maybe!) around Brisbane as the Two Aussie Dads.

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