Day 14 – Sovana, Another Etruscan Necropolis, and an Accidental Visit to Pitigliano

This morning we set out to see some more Etruscan tombs situated southwest of Montepulciano in the area of Pitigliano.  We never take the same road twice if we can help it and today was no different.  This lead us to experience some Italian mountain driving that made me hold my breath a few times.

One of the things I’ve noticed since we have been here is a certain level of personal responsibility a person is expected to have.  For example, why waste money on guard rails when ultimately you are the idiot for driving off the road and you probably won’t make that mistake twice.  If you survive, you’ll be more careful next time.  I would show you pictures, but I was too white-knuckled to even think about picking up the camera.  Another perfect example is the cobblestoned streets and sidewalks.  Yep, they are lumpy and, no, there isn’t a smooth trip or stumble-free surface to be found.  If you fall down, you’ll be more careful next time to mind your step.  Personally, I think it is wonderful.  Sorry for the detour.  Back to the Etruscan Tomb adventure.  With Mario “G-man” Andretti at the wheel, we managed to stay on the hardtop and not experience any cliff driving, which may be very similar to cliff diving.

The Etruscan Tombs in this area are the most significant in Tuscany.  G-man studied ancient history in college, so he was looking forward to finally seeing up close and personal the very things he had only read about.

As we approached the area, it was close to lunch time so we decided to swing into Sovana and eat before continuing on to the tombs.   Lesson learned the hard way, if you don’t take the time to get lunch during the designated lunch hour, you will be looking for your lunch in a grocery store.  When the restaurant is full, there is no standing around waiting for someone to finish up and make a table available.  You just pretty much go away and look elsewhere.  Alrighty, so keeping the 1:00 p.m. custom in mind, we knew we had to find a place quickly or do without.  We pulled into the parking area at Sovana, walked down a little path, and emerged onto the main street.  Not just the main street, the only street.

Sovana consists of one street that may be all of 600 meters long.  On Google maps, the birds’ eye view shows three streets all running parallel to each other.  The street in the middle, Via del Duomo, is THE street.  The other two are more like service roads and one of them isn’t even paved.  More about Sovana in a minute.  Let’s go to lunch.

Sovana has several restaurants.  From what we could tell by walking the length of Via del Duomo, only two were open for business.  The first one we went in was a pizza place.  We saw several already made pizzas in a display case with about a dozen flies getting their fill.  We walked out and went to the other place on the east side of the piazza.  Yes, you are allowed to have one piazza in a town with a 600 meter street.  We ate our lunch at La Tavernetta.

La Taveretta
La Taveretta

The place wasn’t very crowded so we had our pick of available tables.

La Tavernetta, Sovana
La Tavernetta, Sovana
La Tavernetta, Sovana
La Tavernetta, Sovana

From what we could tell, this is a family run place.  Husband cooks, mother waits tables, and wife acts as hostess.  Sweet, sweet people.  No one spoke a word of English, which made the experience that much better.  Mama explained the menu to us, what our options were, and let us know if she agreed with our choices.  We ordered the prix fix menu which included an appetizer, a pasta dish, and either a quarter bottle of wine or a half bottle of water for 10€.  We both chose the bruschetta appetizer and the wine.  G-man opted for the polenta with meat sauce and I had the pici with Bolognese sauce.  Pici is the local pasta noodle – think very fat spaghetti.

La Tavernetta - I love the little pitchers of wine
La Tavernetta – I love the little pitchers of wine
La Tavernetta - the bruschetta appetizer
La Tavernetta – the bruschetta appetizer
Polenta with meat sauce
Polenta with meat sauce
Pici with Bolognese
Pici with Bolognese

After lunch, we went to the eastern end of the Via del Duomo and took a look at the ruins of the Fortress of Aldobrandeschi. Not much remains other than a tower and part of a wall.

Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana fortress
Sovana fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress
Sovana Fortress

There wasn’t much to see of the fortress, so we decided to walk to the western end of the street.  In the piazza which is about at the center of town, we looked at the Palazzo Pretoria which dates to the 13th century.  From the looks of it, all that remains is the façade as I could see sky beyond what appears to have been the front door.

Front door of the Palazzo.  I'm kind of thinking there isn't anything on the other side
Front door of the Palazzo. I’m kind of thinking there isn’t anything on the other side

Next door to the palazzo is the small church of Santa Maria Maggiore that dates to the 12th century.  There are amazing frescos inside.

Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana
Santa Maria Maggiore, Sovana

The western end of the street is made up of residences.

The east end of Via del Duomo, Sovana
The east end of Via del Duomo, Sovana
Clock tower in the piazza in Sovana
Clock tower in the piazza in Sovana
The west end of Via del Duomo, Sovana
The west end of Via del Duomo, Sovana

So many of the residences look exactly as they must have hundreds of years ago.  This tiny village gave me the impression this must be how every other town started out; a single lane built around a church.  Some of these little places grew and grew and others didn’t.  We are glad we stopped there.  It was a neat experience.

About a kilometer west of town is the Etruscan Necropolis.

Citta del Tufo
Citta del Tufo

We parked at the tiny ticket office, paid 5€ each and were provided a map that showed how to get to the various archeological sites.  The tombs date back to between the 4th and 6th centuries BC.  As a layperson, I will tell you that if I did not know what I was looking at then I would see a bunch of rocks.  The area is heavily treed and the rocks are so eroded that had what is there not been pointed out to me, I don’t think that I would have recognized what I was seeing.  I think I could certainly tell that humans had chiseled the rocks, but I would not have known that the little stumpy thing was the base of a column.  I think you get what I’m saying.  Fortunately, each site was well marked and well described.

The Tomb Ildebranda - the most famous Etruscan tomb of Sovana
The Tomb Ildebranda – the most famous Etruscan tomb of Sovana
Those lumps are what is left of the base of the columns.
Those lumps are what is left of the base of the columns.
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock
Etruscan tombs carved into the rock

Beyond the educational aspect, we both tried to wrap our minds around the idea that humans, our ancestors, had created these monuments to their dead loved ones so long ago that we cannot fathom the passage of time.  I can’t even pretend to imagine that kind of time.  2,500 years.

We started on our way home and keeping in line with the idea of not taking the same road twice, we accidently drove through Pitigliano.  Holy smokes, people!!  This is a place to spend some time in!!  This is the granddaddy of all the hill towns we’ve seen so far.  The place is built on a rock.  And, excuse me, is that a real Roman aquaduct?  Wow. Just wow.

Pitiligiano
Pitiligiano
Pitigliano
Pitigliano

One thought on “Day 14 – Sovana, Another Etruscan Necropolis, and an Accidental Visit to Pitigliano

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