Le Cittá del Tufo-In The Heart of Maremma
Le Cittá del Tufo (cities from Tuff stone) I believe, are part of Tuscany’s best kept secrets. Sorano, Sovana, and Pitigliano are the three characteristic villages that represent this part of the Maremma. Tufo or Tuff stone is a kind of volcanic rock that is heavily present in the area from which these cities are built. This part of the Maremma dates back to the Etruscans (pre-Roman) and in 1998 Sorano opened the archeological park called Le Vie del Cave (website currently only in Italian) with hiking trails discovering Estruscan ruins and necropolis. This area is a hiker and explorer’s dream! Each of the villages are so unique, they make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time. This past April, my husband and I took our children on a two day trip to the area and we loved it so much we are already talking about when our next trip will be.
Our two-day journey started on a Monday. We left Florence pretty early as my husband, the explorer, always insists on the taking the scenic route. Normally driving to Sovana from Florence would take about 2 to 2 1/2 hours. It took us 5! Granted, we did make a few stops along the way. We stopped to admire and photograph the famous grouping of cypress trees along SR2 between Buonconvento and San Quirico D’orcia. No matter how many times we have driven past these trees, we stop every time. We simply cannot have enough photos! One of the things I love most about my husband is he loves and appreciates what a beautiful country he is from and never tires saying so. The Val D’orcia, a region southeast of Siena, is famous for producing pecorino (sheep) cheese. You can often see herds of sheep grazing the fields far off in the distance. This time, however, we were able to get really close and take a few photos! Pecorino is my son David’s favorite kind of cheese and It was fun for him to see the animals. Our last stop was for a picnic at Bagno Vignoni to give the kids a break and a chance to play. Then it was a non stop drive to Sovana, where we were sleeping for the night.
The last 30 minutes of the drive got really windy and I was starting to get a little antsy to get out of the car. The terrain was changing and becoming rockier. Unlike the Val D’orcia, where the landscape is vast and hilly with several mile visibility, we now didn’t know what was around each corner. So when we rounded the corner and saw this…
…Sorano, the northern most town of the 3, our breath was taken away. It was such an impressive city to come across; no photo or description can even begin to depict what an incredible view we saw. You simply must go to see for yourself. We, however, finally understood what everyone had been saying about this city. We drove through and continued on to Sovana.
Sovana doesn’t have the dramatic cliff side appearance that Sorano does. In fact, you cannot tell much about it from the road, so we were a little disappointed as we approached it. Our opinion quickly changed once we parked the car and walked inside. Sovana is an incredibly small village that has just 2 roads that run parallel along the city. The words quaint, cute, charming, picturesque, or beautiful do not come close to capturing what a unique village it is. I did my best to photograph my favorite parts.
We stayed 1 night at Hotel Scilla which is located in the main square: Piazza del Pretorio (photographed above). The hotel has a wonderful farm-to-table restaurant called Taverna Etrusca with all of its food coming from local sources. Must sees in Sovana include: the Etruscan tombs and necropolis, the main cathedral, and the Montecristo musuem which houses 500 gold coins that were found several years ago in the area. Read more about Sovana on their website.
The next morning we had a nice breakfast, packed up the car and headed back towards Sorano. We drove around the area for a while to enjoy the country side before arriving. Here are a few photos to give you an idea of what the landscape in the area is like…
We arrived to the town mid-morning. Sorano, the least touristic city of the 3, was our favorite. It is built on so many levels as you can see in the photos. It amazes me how they were able to build cities like these 100’s of years ago. You can get a really good feel for the city just by walking around the streets, (note: the city is not stroller friendly, we learned the hard way!) As you go through the city gates, you literally step back in time. Read more about Sorano here. We spent the morning exploring then bought a few sandwiches and some cheese to have while sitting on a terrace and enjoying the view. After lunch it was time to start heading back to Florence. Even though we only stayed for 1 night, we managed to see so much and really get a feel for the area. My husband and I are looking forward to returning to explore the archeological park once the children are a little older.
During this trip, we did not make it to Pitigliano (the photo in the header) as we had been several years back. We would have liked to, but it was just too much to ask of our 6 month old and 2 year old to do in 2 days! However, you can easily visit all three cities in a two day time span. If you do want to visit Pitigliano which is a town listed among the most beautiful cities in Italy, here is a link to a great guide on what you should see.