Cities Of Tuff

A primordial settlement made up of agricultural workers and shepherds on the banks of the ancient River Armine (nowadays called Fiora); it became a flourishing Etruscan city in the 7th century B.C under the name of Suana. It was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. even though its inhabitants continued to use the Etruscan culture, art, language and writing.
From the 9th century on, it became the home of the Aldobrandeschi family and homeland to Pope Gregory VII; it reached the height of its splendor in the 13th century in the times of the Counts Umberto and Guglielmo when the important buildings in the main square were constructed.
In 1243, the city was besieged by the troops of Federico II and its long, slow decline began. When Countess Margherita died, the Aldobrandeschi dynasty petered out. For the next one hundred years, it was ruled by the Orsini counts up until 1411 when the city was conquered and sacked by Siena.
In 1555, it came under Medici domination but its decline was relentless and unrelenting: invasions, destruction and epidemics caused the depopulation of the city. It has risen again in these last few decades thanks to the finding of an important Etruscan necropolis and now Sovana is a village of about 500 inhabitants visited by many tourists and scholars.

The territory of Sorano is very rich in traces of the past, from prehistoric caves to Etruscan necropolises, up to medieval and Renaissance settlements and monuments. It is this still preponderant presence of the past that characterizes the area and fascinates the visitor.
Almost everywhere in and around Sorano there are artificial caves used since ancient times as rock dwellings or to keep cinerary urns (the famous "colombari"). The tuff here has been shaped in every way, by the Etruscan "vie cave" to the cellars that every winemaker digs with pickaxes in order to conserve the wine (frequently one arrives at "gorges" 50 meters deep!), to the numerous friezes and coats of arms of the portals and to the architectural details placed in the most unexpected places, up to the most important works such as the imposing fortresses of Sorano and Pitigliano, or entire mountains squared as if they were sand castles (the so-called Masso Leopoldino around which the village of Sorano is clinging).

Seeing it from the church of the Madonna delle Grazie, dedicated as a votive offering for the plague of 1527, and with the sun setting, Pitigliano gives an unforgettable scenographic impression. Like Orvieto, but more primitive and more intimately fused with nature due to the vegetation that clings to it and the greyish rock of the cuts perpendicular to the road; a place of shadows and not vivid lights, if not against the sky, cut into corners and squares, whose human sense is perceptible in the broken lines that form the roofs, the castle and the gigliata tower (Florentine style).
You breathe the air of civilizations and cultures changing in the unpredictable logic of the times: the prehistoric one with the most current finds of the Rinaldonian neolithic; the Etruscan one of Vulcian sign, especially of the orientalized and archaic phases, with some Greek products; the Roman one, unifying the peoples in a common order; the medieval one of the Aldobrandeschi, the largest dynasty in Central Italy, lords of the Maremma for about half a millennium; the Renaissance grandeur of the noble Roman family of the Orsini vainly assaulted by the revenge of Pope Alexander VI and his son Valentino and, after a brief presence in Siena, the Medici and their heirs, the Lorraines. To say about 3500 years!

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