Anne's Blog

Discovering Pitigliano: the Town of Roman Thieves…?

Date: September 9, 2021 - categories: - Leave your thoughts

Pitigliano, the town of Roman thieves?  Well, only according to a legend that traces the name of this southern Tuscan town to two thieves, Petililo and Celiano,  fleeing Rome after theft of a golden crown from a Jupiter statue on the Capitoline hill. Legends always bear a thread of truth and at the end of the 4th-century B.C., a group called “Gens Petilia” did exist.

Prior to the Roman domination of Pitigliano, the Etruscans settled here as evidenced by various archaeological finds in the area dating from the 7th to the 2nd-centuries B.C.   A section of the Etruscan wall is incorporated into the medieval wall:

And outside Pitigliano, the 4th-century early Christian oratory carved into volcanic rock, il tempietto, is probably result of the transformation of an Etruscan tomb:

Perched on a volcanic rock plateau, the position of the settlement was defensive – not just for the Etruscans but afterwards, for the Romans and then the Lombards, Germanic tribe from the north with total dominance in this area from 592 to 603.

From the 11th-century, the political life of Pitigliano was tightly bound to nearby Sovana…………where the noble Aldobrandeschi family reigned.

Relegated to Purgatorio by Dante (XI Canto), the  Aldobrandeschi family was said to “represent the good and the bad of great part of the Maremma.”

The Maremma, coastal area of western central Italy, borders the Tyrrhenian Sea and includes much of south-western Tuscany and part of northern Latium as you can see here:

In the 13th-century, Sovana  – in the southwest of the Maremma area – declined in importance as seat of the Aldobrandeschi, while  Pitigliano’s prominence increased. Pitigliano definitively became seat of power  in the area when the young countess Anastasia married Romano Orsini at the end of the 13th-century, bringing all the family and Sovana wealth to Pitigliano.

At the time of their marriage, Pitigliano perched on high on the tuff rock plateau was determined a much more secure place of defense for the ruling Orsini family.

Following the death in 1280 of the most illustrious Orsini family member, Pope Nicholas III………the entire contea (area ruled by a count, ie., county) was ravaged by internal wars as well as attacks from Siena.

Frequent conflicts with Siena continued until the mid-15th-century when the semblance of a compromise was reached: Pitigliano received recognition as a contea but under Sienese sovereignty.

 In the mid-16th-century, Pitigliano comes under the reign of the Granducato di Toscana (Grand Duchy of Tuscany) and the splendid Medici aqueduct, l’aquedotto mediceo,………
….with fifteen arches – two of them enormous – dates from that period:
The mid-16th century Fontana delle Sette Cannelle (Fountain of the Seven Spouts) in Pitigliano’s main square, Piazza della Repubblica, is framed by aqueduct arches.
The fountain was commissioned by Count Gianfranco Orsini in order to complete the work of the aqueduct and the fountain draws water from the annexed acquedotto mediceo.
A Pitigliano family happily gathered around for a family photo for me in front of the aqueduct arches:
Overlooking the aqueduct arches is the imposing Palazzo Orsini, residence of the Count who commissioned the aqueduct:

Don’t miss a visit to the Palazzo Orsini when you’re in Pitigliano.
This will be just the start, though of a memorable visit for a wander through labyrinthine winding medieval alleyways and exploration of the centuries-old Jewish ghetto can’t be missed.
Not to mention Etruscan sites outside Pitigliano.
Care to join me there?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)