Last Updated on May 21, 2023
Tuscany has no shortage of charming hamlets and breathtaking landscapes. The thing is – everyone knows this! That’s why it is a rare and beautiful experience to come across and discover a destination as magical as Pitigliano, Italy.
This historic hillside town has succeeded in staying under the radar and preserving its character, making it a perfect off-the-beaten-path stop to add onto your Tuscany itinerary. Discover everything there is to know about Pitigliano, from travel resources and practical tips, to what makes the town so special and the absolute must-sees, so that you can plan a perfect visit.
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Pitigliano, Italy: A little bit of history
Pitigliano is a village of about 3,500 residents in the province of Grosseto in southern Tuscany. The town is actually right on the border between the regions of Tuscany and Lazio.
Pitigliano is one of three towns that make up the “borghi del tufo”, meaning the rock towns. Built from local tufaceous, volcanic rock, Pitigliano is the “Città del tufo”.
The Etruscans inhabited this area as far back as 800 B.C. Later, Pitigliano became a stop along the historic Via Francigena, an ancient road and pilgrimage route that stretched from Canterbury, England all the way down to Puglia, Italy.
Pitigliano’s is also “La piccola gerusalemme” or, “Little Jerusalem.” Beginning in the 14th century, Jews fled from Rome and often settled in Pitigliano, giving the town a distinct cultural identity from others in its surroundings.
How to Reach Pitigliano
Pitigliano is one of those remote villages where traveling by car is nearly the only way to reach it. Going with public transportation is not impossible, but is much more difficult for the lack of information about public transport lines online and the distance between the village to main public transportation hubs.
Visiting Pitigliano by Car
Pitigliano is the perfect destination for a Tuscany or Italy road trip, being that it is located in the middle of several major Italian cities.
You can visit Pitigliano as a day trip from Rome, as it is just a 2 hour drive from the country’s capital city. The drive is mainly highway via the A1, but becomes more countryside as you reach Pitigliano.
The driving distance is about the same from Siena, a major city in Tuscany. You could also visit Pitigliano as a day trip from Florence, but the driving distance is nearly 3 hours long.
Once you arrive in Pitigliano, there are several parking lots. Keep in mind that spaces can be tight, so you must stay attentive. Parking in Pitigliano is paid, but only at €1 per hour in most lots. You can make paying easy and flexible with EasyPark, which is my favorite app to use for parking in Italy.
Visiting Pitigliano by public transportation
You will see now why public transportation has a dramatic consequence on your trip planning to Pitigliano.
From Rome to Pitigliano using public transportation, it takes minimum 4 and a half hours. This includes one train ride (Rome to Viterbo) and two buses (Viterbo to Valentano, Valentano to Pitigliano).
Instead from Siena, it can take 4 hours and 50 minutes and minimum 4 buses! This is why public transportation is not the ideal option for reaching Pitigliano, Italy.
I would only recommend using public transportation if you are on a strict budget. Or, you could consider it if you have a lot of time in Tuscany to spend, so it would not matter if you slowly make your way to Pitigliano, even over the course of a few days so you can at least stop in the various connecting towns.
If you have more specific questions about the public transportation options, start by utilizing Google Maps to get an idea of the necessary routes. You can let me know in the comments if you have specific questions about your itinerary so that I can give you personal help, seeing as their are many different combinations and factors!
The Best Things To Do in Pitigliano, Italy
Pitigliano as a whole is an attraction. That is why the first best thing to do in Pitigliano is visit the viewpoint along the SR74 road. You will likely use this road to reach Pitigliano, so you will see the observation point from the road.
To find it precisely, you can either select Punto Panoramica Pitigliano or Viewpoint Pitigliano Panorama on Google Maps.
You will find limited parking spots here. However, it is mainly a photo spot, so many people do not stay long, which means there is a lot of turnover.
It is also a place from which to start various hikes around the city.
Chiesa di San Rocco
I had to talk about Chiesa di San Rocco next because it is the prettiest place in Pitigliano.
This church, which is not the main church of the city, is quaint and charming. It lies at the point of what divides the old town center into two roads.
This crossroads creates such a beautiful framing effect around the storied church facade. Not to mention, the street right in front of the church is adorned with flowers, adding more character and beauty to the scene.
It is the oldest church in Pitigliano, dating back to the 12th century. The interior is decorated with fresco paintings and the coats of arms of the various important families in Pitigliano throughout history.
One of the most striking architectural elements you note about Pitigliano, even from a distance, is the aqueduct.
This aqueduct, commissioned by the Medici family in the 1600s, brought running water to the town.
It is the first aqueduct built in this region of Tuscany, the Maremma. The aqueduct consists of the two large arches seen in the photo above, as well as the 13 smaller arches beside it.
Explore the Charming Streets of Old Town
One of the reasons I fell in love with Pitigliano was the charm in every single one of its old town streets.
Greenery, stone facades, blooming flowers, colored shutters, secret corridors and squares: there are endless little gems that gift the village undeniable allure and you the exciting sensation of discovery.
These streets are mainly found beyond the town square and the Chiesa di San Rocco. Make your way down Via Aldobrandeschi to the Piazza Bechrini viewpoint to see them all.
And keep an eye out for a small sign pointing you to a secret square where you will find the “Monumento alla divinazione etrusca”, the beautiful statue pictured below.
Piazza della Repubblica and Palazzo Orsini
Pitigliano’s main square, the Piazza della Repubblica is open and bustling. The square is situated at the foot of the Palazzo Orsini, a palace built in the 12th century and later passed to the ruling Orsini family in the 1300s. The Orsini ruled from the 14th to the 16th century.
The massive palace today is the Museo del Palazzo Orsini, a museum that holds artifacts from artwork to silverware, telling the history of Pitigliano and this region of Tuscany. It is also interesting because the palace is home to several different viewpoints that see as far as Rome and Naples.
There is also a second museum located in the palace, the Archaelogical Museum that has on display artifacts dug up from the ancient Etruscan cities in the area.
The rest of the square is made up of two parts, one the southern side where you will find the beautiful Fontana delle Sette Cannelle, Fountain of the Seven Spouts.
On the other side of the square is a panoramic viewpoint of the natural forests that surround Pitigliano.
The Pitigliano cathedral, Chiesa dei Santi Pietro e Paolo, is the town’s main religious site, neighboring the bell tower you see soaring above the town’s skyline.
The position is unique in that the church is not surrounded by or placed in the main square, so it has a quieter feel to it. Visiting the church is free.
Synagogue & Jewish Quarter
Pitigliano Cathedral is not the only religious site in town. As mentioned while talking about the village’s history, there is a historically vibrant Jewish community in Pitigliano. Many Jewish people fled persecution in Rome and ended up in Pitigliano, forming “La piccola gerusalemme”, or “Little Jerusalem”.
Over time, various events like the unification of Italy gave Jews more liberty to leave Pitigliano, reaching other places in Tuscany. This in addition to other occasions caused a decline in the Jewish population.
Jewish heritage shows up in many aspects of Pitigliano’s culture, from its architecture like the synagogue, to the food like traditional Jewish baked goods.
If this aspect of Pitigliano’s history is interesting to you, you can visit the Museo Ebraico, or “Jewish Museum” from April 1st to October 21st every day except for Saturday.
Visit Artisan Shops
Pitigliano’s town center is full of artisan shops, from food to furniture.
One of the more unique stores we visited was a handmade furniture design studio called FEM Handmade Wood.
Then of course you will find all of the food and wine shops selling local, homegrown products. Food and wine to try from Pitigliano includes sfratto (a Jewish pastry that I will talk more about in the next section!), cantucci, pici pasta, Bianco di Pitigliano DOC white wine and Vin Santo.
Archaeological Ruins “Le Macerie”
Right off the main square is a small open area through which you can walk through for free and observe ruins that held artifacts (ceramic pieces) found from the Bronze Age.
The area was damage during World War II bur recovered in 2002. There is not much to do here besides look at the ruins but nonetheless it is an incredible sight to literally see a few steps in front of you the site of somewhere that has existed for thousands of years.
Le Vie Cave Hike
All around Pitigliano are ancient roads and caves opened up through the volcanic rock by the Etruscans.
These cuts in the rocks are known as the “vie cave” and they almost all coincide with a necropolis, an ancient burial place.
The labyrinth pathways are also still marked with symbols and carvings from the Etruscan, Roman and Middle Ages periods.
The hike can be done in just over 3 hours at a length of about 10 kilometers. You can do it on your own, or if you are looking for a guided experience, sign up for a hiking tour with a local.
The town government of Pitigliano has also set up an itinerary that can be done as a tour. For detailed information about the vie cave walks from a trusted resource, visit the Pitigliano.org website.
Where to Eat in Pitigliano, Italy
Locanda del Pozzo Antico
Lunch is a must do at Locanda del Pozzo Antico. This restaurant had some of the best food I tried in Tuscany, from the bread to the pasta to the absolutely mouthwatering dessert.
Pici pasta is a staple in all Tuscan kitchens, so it is no surprise I ended up eating it whenever possible during my trip. The Pici pasta was “all’agliata” a slightly spicier (but not hot spicy) version to a normal Pici pasta with red sauce.
But the real showstopper was the cheesecake dessert: cantucci cookie crust with a white chocolate base and vinsanto topping. Tuscan gold on a plate.
This is personally where I ate but after scouring menus all over town and not finding seating at some other restaurants that looked super tasty, here are some alternative recomendations:
- Trattoria Il Grillo
- Hostaria del Ceccottino
- Trattoria La Pappalpomodoro
Forno del Ghetto
One of the other places to eat in Pitigliano that you can’t miss is the best bakery in the Jewish quarter, Forno del Ghetto.
This homely, simple bakery is home to treasures of Tuscan and Italian pastry, from fresh bread to all kinds of sweest.
The must try is sfratto, a traditional Jewish dessert of the Maremma region made of a type of thin cake filled with honey, orange peel, walnuts, anise and nutmeg.
The story behind sfratto is rather sad. “Sfratto” means eviction and the pastry was created after the town had come around to the Jewish people’s houses, banging on their doors with sticks, forcing them to move to the Ghetto. That is how the sfratto pastry got its shape and its name.
Where to Stay in Pitigliano, Italy
In general, I would recommend visiting Pitigliano as a stop on your Tuscany itinerary or as a day trip.
But, if you are looking for a slow travel experience and a charming town in which to spend a night in Tuscany, then Pitigliano is a perfect choice: not too crowded with travelers, and full of charming places instead of touristy hotels.
Here are some of the stays to check out, from town center apartments to nearby countryside farm stays:
- Etrusco Home & Relax – €112/night
- Cittadella 13 – €85/night
- La Sorpresa – €99/night (with view!)
- Il Gelsomino – €98/night (with view!)
- Agriturismo Poggio al Tufo – €95/night
- Country House Maremma nel Tufo – €90/night
What To Do Around Pitigliano
Saturnia Hot Springs
The Saturnia hot springs, an Instagram famous destination, are just 25 minutes away by car from Pitigliano. The natural thermal pools are a free attraction in southern Tuscany. Not only is it an aesthetically beautiful location but the springs are full of nutrients and minerals for a true wellness experience.
Sorano and Sovana
Sorano and Sovana are the other two towns that make up the “borghi di tufo”, the rock villages. Each town is noted for their Etruscan origins and stone architecture like Pitigliano, as well as for the castles that dominate their skylines.
In Sorano, pictured above, the Orsini Fortress is the stand out monument, whereas in Sovana, the highlights are the village’s quaint main square and the Aldobrandesca Fortress.
Bagni San Filippo
The Bagni San Filippo are another hot springs location in Tuscany. They are located about an hour away from Pitigliano by car. Here, the main attraction is not only the relaxing thermal baths but the imposing Fosso Bianco, a massive white rock from which cascades the thermal water and natural minerals.
Last but not least, just beyond the Bagni San Filippo is the area of Val d’Orcia, where you will find the most iconic Tuscan landscapes.
Travel Tips for Visiting Pitigliano
- Free bathrooms. I’m pointing them out because they are often a luxury in Italy and in Europe! You will find free public bathrooms write before the main entrance gate to the town. Here is the exact address: Via dei Lavatoi, 34, 58017 Pitigliano GR.
- Make dining reservations ahead of time if possible. If you are traveling to Pitigliano on a weekend, you will want to make lunch or dinner reservations ahead of time. Several restaurants turned us down even for an early lunch because they would be full as soon as they opened their doors.
- Fill up your water for free. There are several fountains with drinking water, so bring an empty bottle to fill up.
The SGTD Take
Pitigliano, Italy is everything you want out of Tuscan countryside charm without all of the things you don’t want: overtourism and overpriced food and accommodation.
It is a destination that is off-the-beaten-path, meaning it takes a little more creativity to integrate it into your trip itinerary. But hopefully from the beautiful landscapes in the photos and the unique cultural perspectives that have defined the town’s history, you can agree with me that the extra effort is worth it.
Do you have any specific questions about visiting Pitigliano? Leave them in a comment!
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I hope this destination guide has convinced you to add Pitigliano, Italy to your itinerary!