the beaten track in Tuscany, Italy
/ Travel Guide
Pitigliano panorama - CC-by-SA
Most tourists stick to the
beaten path, visiting the major and popular destinations throughout beautiful
Tuscany, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you are
at the “been there, done that” stage, here are a couple of tips to take
you a little off that beaten track and into some surprising adventures.
Having settled yourself into
your Tuscany holiday villa through Bridgewater's
Idyllic Italy, make sure you have camera in hand and head off on a
visit to the ancient Etruscan past.
Tuscany and the Vie Cave
Way in the distant past, Tuscany
was home to one of the most ancient civilizations, who made their mark
long before even the Romans came along. The Etruscans, a powerful
civilization who occupied the area in the way distant past, have left some
really incredible hikes for us modern mere mortals to explore.
One of these hikes is known
as the Vie
Cave (or excavated roads), which is a network of roads carved into
the solid stone walls, linking an Etruscan necropolis with several different
settlements in the area, Sovano, Sorano and Pitigliano. These roads
are carved into what is called the “Tuff,” which is a kind of rock made
of consolidated volcanic ash, ejected in the distant past from vents during
a volcanic eruption.
No one really knows for sure
why the Etruscans went to so much trouble to carve out these roads and
there have been theories that they are either water channels, or, due to
the link to the Etruscan necropolis, possibly these were sacred roads connecting
sacred grounds to burial areas. As some of the walls are over twenty
feet high, possibly these walkways served as a defensive system against
Whatever their original usage,
nowadays this is makes for a popular hiking area for both young and old
with some interesting sights to see along the way.
Vie Cave between Sovana
The medieval town of Sorano
While walking the Vie Cave,
Sorano is an excellent visit. This town and comune in the province
of Grosseto, is an ancient medieval town, which hangs from the tuff stone
of the hillsides overlooking the Lente River.
Sorano photo CC-by-SA
||The town of Sorano has seen
a few great civilizations, including the Etruscans and eventually the Romans,
and the entire town is steeped in history.
Strolling the medieval streets
is fascinating and special visits are to the Rocca degli Orsini
or Orsini castle, built back in the 14th century and renovated in 1552.
In the Sorano
area can be found the ruins of the San Rocco church, which still retains
part of the original walls, and behind the church is a huge Etruscan necropolis
with several tombs carved into the tuff.
Another site of interest
is the Masso Leopoldino, which is carved from the natural tuff stone
in the area to form a fortified, panoramic terrace. While in the
past this was obviously a security measure, today the terrace gives a fascinating
vista over the area.
Pitigliano - The Little Jerusalem
Another branch of the Vie Cave
takes the visitor to Pitigliano, a quaint and beautiful medieval town which
is known as “The Little Jerusalem,” due to the historic presence of a Jewish
community in the town. The community of Pitigliano has a synagogue
and a cemetery.
Again a major location for
the Etruscans and the Romans, a popular spot to visit in the town is the
Tempietto (or small temple), which is a natural cave reworked by
human hand into a small temple, just outside the central area, above the
Lente valley. The reason for its being is still unknown, but theories
are that it dates back to Late Antiquity or the early Middle Ages.
For those interested in a
little history, some great scenery and a really good hike, the Vie Cave
and the various towns it connects are definitely worth a visit.
Pitigliano photo CC-by-SA
/ Travel Guide
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