One of the most spectacular of all the hill towns in Italy is Pitigliano. My friend Sharon Bernardi was the first person to tell me about it and when together we began escorting tours around Tuscany I had to include it in every visit as it has the WOW factor. Pitigliano goes back to Etruscan times but its physical architecture and remains are medieval. For several hundred years Pitigliano was a frontier town between the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and to the south, the Papal States. The town was once home to a large Jewish community, mostly made up by people fleeing from Rome during the counter-reformation persecutions. There is still a small Jewish presence here and a small synagogue you can visit was restored in 1995.
I am in the official entrance courtyard at the Palazzo Orsini, the handsome well is carved with elements of the coat of arms.
From the main piazza near the Orsini Palazzo walk to the arch and you can see the remains of a tall and very visible aqueduct at the very top of the butte.
We always headed first with our group to the Palazzo Orsini, once we bought them the entry tickets we let them wander at their own pace around this former seat of power. Not everyone wants to spend the same amount of time looking at the same exhibits, though I must say the dungeon and its weapons of torture is always fascinating to our groups.
A ticket into the Orsini Museo is around €3.50 and it always amazes me how people so often skimp on paying an entrance fee, they have already taken great time and cost to visit monumental places. I recommend this visit, it is not a lot of money to spend to immerse yourself in the tangible reminders of the history of Palazzo Orsini’s rulers and occupants, all the way from the 12th century to the eventual opening to the public in 1989. Check the opening hours and try to go before or after lunch as they close in summer at 1pm and re open at 3pm. Closed on Mondays as is the restaurant I suggest you visit.
The back streets and side streets are full of photo opportunities for those shots of well-worn stone courtyards and alleys.
One of the highlights of our foodie focussed tours is to revisit the restaurant here in a cellar dug deep into the tufo. The wild haired chef owner with long curly grey hair is always on hand to greet us.
We also make a beeline also for the Jewish bakery Panificio del Ghetto in via Zuccarelli where I like to buy its special of pressed dried fruit, spices and nut pastry. A sliced section is here on the plate with the biscotti. Sfratti means “sticks” in Italian, as well as ‘evicted’ in the days when landlords were allowed to persuade unwanted and delinquent tenants to leave by force of a rod. This cookie is a popular Italian Rosh Hashanah treat, and got its name from its resemblance to a stick, the Jewish sense of humor transforming an object of persecution into a sweet symbol. I am about to hunt down a recipe for Sfratti as I won’t be back in Pitigliano for some time. Roz