The three ‘Città del Tufo’ or Tufa Cities are one of the Maremma’s biggest draw cards. This is the heartland of Etruscan Maremma. The Etruscans were a civilization that predates the Romans and lived predominately in central Italy. They were known for their art and culture, but weren’t the best warriors since they were almost wiped out and engulfed by the Roman Empire at the start of the Common Era.
Pitigliano is the most famous of the three. This fairytale city rises from the tufa rock cliff like the roots of a tree. Most of its palazzos are carved out of the same rock, so you don’t know where nature ends and the manmade begins. Pitigliano is best known for its Jewish ghetto, sweetly nicknamed Piccola Gerusalemme. This ghetto was once home to a large Jewish community and is now a museum on the town’s Jewish history.
Sorano is surrounded on almost all sides by sheer cliff face and sweeping views of the verdant valleys below. The town’s guard is its fortress, a truly terrifying example of military architecture and one of the few fortresses in Italy to have never been successfully invaded. It’s easy to see why. The fortress is an iceberg, so much of it is actually hidden underground and can only be visited on a guided tour, which can be organized at the tourist information centre. It’s a maze of hidden passages and endless tunnels and even had its own gunpowder factory back in the day.
Sovana is the smallest of the Tufa Cities and is for all intents and purposes a toy town. It has less than 30 official residents and is so perfectly preserved and looked after that you can be forgiven for thinking you’ve stumbled onto a theme park version of a Renaissance town. Sovana is home to the Maremma’s only pope and has a very impressive Duomo to show for it.