Carved from volcanic stone, Pitigliano is located in Tuscany halfway from Florence and Rome, perched atop a volcanic tufa ridge.
Its unmistakable skyline makes it stand out from kilometres away and gives Pitigliano a surreal charm. It is also known as Little Jerusalem (Piccola Gerusalemme) due to the long-standing presence of a Jewish community. Prior to this particular part of history, Pitigliano has an ancient past, with centuries of changes in civilizations and cultures.
Its houses seem to grow directly out of yellowish red volcanic tuff, which has been excavated since Etruscan time, and later used as refuges and wine cellars. Today, inside the town, there’s not much evidence of the Etruscan origins, apart from the small but nicely organised Archaeological Museum.
Though the Roman presence is less visible to the naked eye, there is ample proof that they attempted to build on the plateau in front of Pitigliano. Bringing us up to the 1600’s where one can still admire the Medici aqueduct in the town centre. Noteworthy, is the large Jewish presence due to the changes to the laws by Ferdinando I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, making it easier for this highly persecuted population to settle down in this area. The area has also distinguished itself for the role it played in helping the Jews escape from the racial laws and opposing forces during WWII as they scoured the land for prisoners.
The maze-like area around the ancient Jewish Ghetto quarter is particularly fascinating. In via Zuccarelli you’ll find the ‘Little Jerusalem’. This is a well-kept museum that includes a synagogue, and ancient rooms excavated into the tufa rock that were used for the activities of the ghetto. A visit to the Jewish quarter offers an interesting insight into the life of the Jewish community in Pitigliano, that hosted an important Jewish community in central Italy.