Sightseeing Tours of the Jewish Tuscan Community

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Sorano - View
Sorano-Fortezza-OrsiniSorano - The Lente RiverSorano - Porta dei Merli

Located in the southern part of the Tuscany region Sorano is one of the most characteristic medieval villages of the area. The small town is rich in art and history; in particular the presence of an ancient flourishing Jewish community is still strong.

The unique town was built in tuff’s stone carved from the same hill on which it is located. The origin of the city is Etruscan like almost all the communities present in the region.

Sorano is situated at the feet of the Rocca Orsini, a 14th century fortress. This is considered one of the best examples of military construction of the time. The Orsini family ruled the city for centuries during the Middle Ages. Trying to improve the economy of the area they welcomed the Jewish population that was escaping from the Papal State.

At the beginning of the 17th century the Medici family took over the Orsini’s possessions. They were strictly connected with the Catholic Church: a Ghetto was created and the Jews of Sorano were forced to live inside its walls.

However the Jewish community kept growing until the 19th century. When the new King of Italy abolished all the restrictions for the Jews many families started to move in bigger cities looking for a better life. The community of Sorrano lost power and eventually disappeared. Luckily the signs of their presence are still very strong.

Things to see

Passing by the ancient entrance of the former Ghetto it is possible to see the marks left by the doors used to close the ghetto between sunset and sunrise. Signs of the Synagogue, the oven of the unleavened bread and many other traces of the historical community are yet visible in old buildings.

An older synagogue located outside the ghetto’s perimeter is now the venue for local events and exhibitions’.


Pitigliano - night view
Pitigliano - Jewish CemeteryPitigliano - Day ViewPitigliano - Palazzo Orsini

Pitigliano is located on a tuff’s cliff in southern Tuscany.

This was the center of the Etruscans civilization. Around the village it is possible to admire the cave-tombs built during their domination. Most of the caves are still in use as cellars and lockers.

The subsequent Roman domination on the other hand didn’t leave many signs; hidden in the cellars under some old houses there are niches that were used to keep the urns of the dead.

During the medieval period the city was ruled by three major aristocratic families: the Aldobrandeschi, the Orsini and the Medici.

For many centuries the city housed a very well integrated Jewish community.

Pitigliano’s location, at the border between the Papal State and the Gran Duchy of Tuscany caused many Jews here to find the peace that they couldn’t have under the Pope’s jurisdiction.  When the Reign of Italy was founded the Jews became citizens and many families started to leave the small village for bigger cities. When the Mussolini’s government passed the Racial Laws there were only a small Jewish community left in Pitigliano; all the Jews fled to avoid capture thanks to the help of their Christian fellow citizens.

Things to see

After the Second World War almost no Jews went back in Pitigliano; however the cultural heritage is very well preserved.  Entering the ancient Ghetto is possible to visit the 16th century synagogue, restored and reopened in 1995. Beneath the temple are located the areas used for the ritual bath, the kosher butcher and winery and the outstanding Forno delle Azzime (the old kosher bakery).

Also the Jewish cemetery survived the many changes that involved the community.

Walking through Via Zuccarelli and the alley Goito it is possible to reach the Old Mill Pelliccetti used by the Jewish community for many years.

Pitigliano is very famous for its wine; the Bianco di Pitigliano (White of Pitigliano) has won many awards. Lately also its kosher version is becoming very celebrated.